Shuster Backs Down on ATC Privatization Plan

Amid an outcry from general aviation pilots, a last-minute privatization push is dropped from the FAA reauthorization bill now before Congress.

atc privatization
An eleventh-hour proposal by Rep. Bill Shuster to remove air traffic control from the FAA and place it under the jurisdiction of the Transportation Department was dropped after an outcry by GA pilots.NATCA

The message from GA pilots to Congress on Tuesday was loud and clear: Leave ATC alone.

Amid an outcry from general aviation groups, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) dropped an eleventh-hour effort to move oversight of air traffic control out of the FAA and into the Department of Transportation, a maneuver GA groups called a thinly disguised effort to privatize air traffic control.

AOPA, NBAA, GAMA and NATA blasted Shuster's attempt on Tuesday to rush through ATC reforms just as Congress was preparing to vote on HR 4, the 2018 FAA reauthorization bill.

Like his earlier ATC privatization plan, Shuster’s last-minute maneuver sought to create a 13-member board, termed an “advisory committee,” that would be heavily influenced by the airlines and could wield considerable control over the nation’s ATC system.

GA groups put out urgent calls for their members to contact Congress to oppose the plan ahead of a vote on HR 4. General aviation pilots flooded Washington with phone calls and emails late on Tuesday to voice their displeasure.

Forced to back down from what he called a “modest reform,” Shuster instead agreed to significantly revise the language, leaving only a measure that would create a chief technology officer position to work with the FAA’s COO on ATC management.

NBAA said its members mobilized within hours, blanketing Capitol Hill with opposition, and changing the debate on this “thinly disguised attempt to give control of the system to the big airlines.”