As we head into the final days of 2015, the general aviation community has once again been served with a fresh reminder of the very real threat to the industry from a proposal from the airline lobby that would create a privatized Air Traffic Control (ATC) system, funded through user fees, as part of legislation for the upcoming reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Let me explain the situation, and the actions NBAA needs you to take in response.
Earlier this week, in Washington, DC, multiple CEOs from many of the nation's largest airlines gathered with their association president for a press teleconference to call for privatizing ATC and funding it with user fees. If anyone doubted the CEOs' intention, a resulting USA Today headline made it clear: "Airline executives urge privatization of air-traffic control."
The reason for the timing of the airlines' push for this proposal is simple: Congress has just concluded its work on a separate measure for highway funding, and it is likely that FAA reauthorization will be the next major transportation measure taken up by lawmakers.
With an eye toward this scenario, the airlines are readying for the coming battle over ATC privatization funded by user fees, and we must do likewise. The business aviation community must once again also band together in active opposition to such a proposal.
You can do that now, by using NBAA's Contact Congress resource.
Our continued mobilization on this issue is critical - in calling for ATC privatization, the big airlines want nothing less than a system they define and control for their own benefit. Under such a setup, Congress would be stripped of its long-standing authority over aviation-system governance, which safeguards the public's interest, including the companies and small communities that rely on general aviation.
That role would instead be relegated to a self-serving "board" or similar entity, equipped with sweeping authority to make decisions in the airlines' business interests - for example, determinations about where and when companies using business aviation can fly, how much it will cost to do so, which community airports will (or won't) be given priority, and what type of payment, including user fees, will be demanded of operators.
As NBAA members know, I have been raising concerns about this matter for some time, in testimony before Congressional lawmakers, and in policy forums hosted by such diverse interests as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Air Traffic Controllers Association. NBAA members, local business aviation groups and others have likewise been weighing in, alerting Congress to this concern.
As the year draws to a close, we in business aviation have an important opportunity to alert Congress once again. Lawmakers will soon return to their states and Congressional districts for the holidays - by using Contact Congress now, we can let them know that when they are at home, they will hear from constituents about this issue. By meeting with elected officials in the coming days and weeks, we can also make our voices heard. By discussing the issue at seasonal community events, we can prompt others to take action.
In short, by remaining mobilized on this issue, we can help shape our destiny on a matter of critical importance to business aviation.
NBAA President & CEO