AOPA-backed bill to ban privatized ATC introduced in U.S. House

April 22, 2003

Following an intense Capitol Hill campaign, bipartisan legislation to keep air traffic control (ATC) in government hands is now pending in Congress. AOPA has spoken in favor of this legislation.

The White House Office of Management and Budget had declared ATC a "commercial activity," opening the possibility that ATC operations could be turned over to private contractors. Such a move could ultimately lead to a private corporation running the nation's air traffic control and charging user fees.

During Capitol Hill testimony earlier this month, AOPA President Phil Boyer called for legislation declaring ATC an "inherently governmental" function. "According to the OMB itself," Boyer noted, "inherently governmental functions are those 'so intimately related to the public interest as to mandate performance by federal employees.' We believe that air traffic control meets the definition of 'inherently governmental.'"

Republican representatives Jack Quinn (R-N.Y.), and Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.) have joined James Oberstar (D-Minn.), the ranking Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), senior Democrat on the aviation subcommittee, to introduce a bill declaring that air traffic control (ATC) is an inherently government function.

Citing poor results in countries that have tried privatized ATC, Rep. DeFazio said, "We can't afford to contract out the safety of the flying public to the lowest bidder."

Fellow sponsor Rep. Quinn added, "It is imperative that our air traffic controllers continue to serve as a federal government entity."

The Air Traffic Control System Integrity Act of 2003 (H.R.1711) is a companion piece to legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.).

"I am encouraged to see a commitment by key leaders in both chambers of Congress to prevent any movement toward that end," said Boyer.

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