Congress Moves To Privatize ATC

Photo credit: Mitre Mitre

While some see it as a case of fixing what isn't broken, Congress is moving swiftly forward with a proposal to privatize ATC by creating a not-for-profit, federally chartered corporation to operate the nation's air traffic control system.

What's clearly broken, proponents of the proposal say, is NextGen, the FAA's multi-billion-dollar effort to modernize ATC that has run into a wall of technical problems and cost overruns.

Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said in a speech at the Aero Club of Washington yesterday that he'll push hard to separate ATC functions from the FAA as a key part of the agency's upcoming reauthorization legislation.

The new ATC system would be formed in similar fashion to NavCanada, the privatized air traffic control entity in Canada, with a corporate structure responsible for its own revenue. The source of that revenue is what has some in aviation feeling uneasy over the proposal. Schuster said user fees would fund ATC, an idea that has been strongly rejected by pilot groups when tied to IFR fees under an Obama Administration plan.

AOPA reiterated its opposition to user fees while leaving the possibility open that it is willing to hear more about the plans Congress has for ATC.

"We appreciate Chairman Shuster's efforts to bring needed reforms to the current FAA structure and we look forward to continuing to work with him and the committee. Although we have yet to see details of the proposed legislation, AOPA believes the current method of collecting revenues through a tax on aviation fuel is not broken," said AOPA Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Jim Coon, according to "Moreover, we believe any air traffic system must preserve GA access to airports and airspace on a first-come, first-served basis, like we enjoy today."

Schuster said in his speech that legislation to create a separate ATC organization could be introduced in the House by July.

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