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"Opinion: GOP House Bill Would Give Control Of Air Traffic ToAirlines and Aviation Lobbying Groups"

Thursday, June 22, 2017

GOP House Bill Would Give Control Of Air Traffic To Airlines and Aviation 
Lobbying Groups
By John Goglia

The House Transportation Committee Chairman, Bill Shuster, today unveiled his 
bill to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration, make other aviation  
changes and, significantly, privatize U.S. air traffic control.  The bill would 
create a federally chartered, not-for-profit corporation called the American 
Air Navigation Services Corporation.   The purpose, according to the proposed 
legislation, is to "provide for the more efficient operation and improvement of 
air traffic services."  Although federally-chartered, the corporation would not 
be a part of the United States government.  It would be subject to 
"performance-based regulations and minimum safety standards" but otherwise 
responsible for establishing and managing US air traffic services.

The bill would take air traffic out of the hands of the federal government and 
put it in a private company run by a CEO and 12 directors.  Two directors would 
be appointed by the Secretary of Transportation.  The airlines would nominate 3 
directors.  Lobbying groups for - the bill refers to them euphemistically as 
"the principal organizations representing" - general aviation, business 
aviation owners and operators, aviation-related entities (such as fixed-base 
operators), general aviation manufacturers, major airports and airport 
executives would nominate a total of 3 directors.  One director each would be 
nominated by unions representing air traffic controllers and airline pilots.  
Two additional directors would be nominated and selected by the other directors.

While the bill provides conflict of interest and fiduciary requirements, I do 
not believe they are sufficient to overcome the nominating process which puts 
far too much control of our nation's skies in a very small group of interested 
parties - the airlines and aviation lobbying groups.  Notably absent from the 
Board is any requirement for passenger or consumer representation.  Nor is 
there any provision for unmanned aircraft to hold a seat.

In my opinion, the FAA could certainly improve on the speed with which it is 
modernizing the nation's air traffic control system.  But it's done a 
commendable job keeping the skies safe and balancing the needs of the myriad 
users of the system which now includes a growing presence of unmanned aircraft. 
  Changing control of the nation's skies should not be undertaken lightly and 
certainly should not be put in the hands of private parties with inherent 
conflicts of interest in use of the airspace.

Fortunately, the Senate's proposed FAA reauthorization bill does not include 
any provision for privatizing air traffic control.  Let's hope the House 
provisions don't make it out of the transportation committee.
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