ATC Still Not for Sale

GA will not be "just fine” if H.R. 2997 passes, GA leaders tell NBAA audience.

Ed Bolen said today that the ongoing efforts in Congress to pass Bill Shuster’s controversial H.R. 2997, a move that would rip the current air traffic control system away from the FAA, represents “A threat on a magnitude we’ve not seen before.” Bolen’s remarks opened the annual NBAA media breakfast at the convention in Las Vegas.

Just before a panel discussion with other members of Washington's alphabet aviation groups, including the AOPA, EAA, HAI, GAMA and NATA, Bolen played a new video (above) created to tell members of Congress that legends and leaders from the GA side of aviation agree the wholesale giveaway of the nation's ATC system is a very bad idea for the industry, as well as for many of those Congressional members. The big problem at the moment though, is that too many Congressional members don't really understand the potential for the chaotic unintended consequences the passage of H.R. 2997 could unleash.

NATA's Marty Hiller somewhat refuted the concept that this is about ATC privatization, calling it the "airlinerization of the aviation industry, referencing that the new ATC organization will be run by a 13-member board dominated by the airlines and essentially unaccountable to the American people. Under 2997, billions of dollars of the FAA's current ATC assets — buildings, radars, technology, everything — will also be simply handed over to the new ATC organization at no cost. The pro-2997 movement is also spreading rumors that it's only the business jet people fighting privatization when, in fact, dozens of aviation industry groups, as well as a number of conservative think tanks have stood up to oppose the legislation.

AOPA’s Mark Baker sees “the education of Congressional members as the biggest problem at the moment,” while GAMA’s Pete Bunce said, “Many members of Congress don’t really understand what’s going on [with H.R. 2997] and don’t really care.” The work for members of the industry then is to figure out how to make members of Congress care.

ATC not for sale
Legendary pilot Sean Tucker is one of the many aviation figures and celebrities to stand with NBAA and many other organizations against ATC privatization.NBAA/Facebook

Matt Zuccaro from HAI believes the real strategy at the moment is to “get members of Congress to do whatever they need to in order to get 2997 passed.” It’s only later, when perhaps a different Congress is seated, that things might really begin to change for the worse.

Bolen offered a few simple thoughts after hearing Bunce's comments: "Remember, members of Congress want to be popular with their constituents and fellow members. But we need to make them understand that thousands of their constituents back home do care about how these members vote. That's where individual efforts can help by tuning in to ATC Not for Sale.com. Five minutes on the site offers a dozen prominent industry leaders explaining the details of why giving ATC to a private organization is a bad idea."

AOPA created a created an ATC Privatization Emergency Checklist highlighting what anti-privatization soldiers should know before they call their Congressional representatives at 833-GA-Voice where callers are asked for their zipcodes. The system identifies members of Congress for that area and connects the caller to each member in turn, so they can speak to a Congressional staffer and explain why they oppose 2997. That's where some of the knowledge gleaned from the ATC Not For Sale site and AOPA Emergency checklist can come in handy.

Bolen said a call from anyone with a stake in the results of H.R. 2997 will go a long way toward reminding legislators they should think decide whether they’ll vote along party lines for legislation most have never even read, or “actually represent their constituents back home.”