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AOPA to fight against 'commercial activity' designation for ATCAOPA to fight against 'commercial activity' designation for ATC

AOPA is strongly supporting Sen. Frank Lautenberg's (D-N.J.) effort to overturn a recent federal government ruling that the FAA's air traffic control (ATC) functions are a "commercial" activity. That means that ATC operations could be turned over to private contractors and could ultimately lead to ATC privatization and user fees.

"Pilots have a long history of fighting fees for air traffic control services," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "We are pleased to join Sen. Lautenberg to oppose ATC privatization efforts."

Concerned that the commercial decision by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) may degrade aviation safety, AOPA, air traffic controllers, and other industry groups are supporting the legislation introduced by Senator Lautenberg this week. The bill (S.338) would once again declare ATC functions as "inherently governmental."

That's a designation that means only the government can perform the service. The 1998 FAIR act requires federal agencies to look at their various activities and report to OMB which functions are "commercial" and could be performed by private contractors. Food service or janitorial services are examples of things that can be contracted out. "Inherently governmental" agency functions as those "so intimately related to the public interest as to mandate performance by federal employees," according to OMB. And that defines air traffic control, in AOPA's opinion.

As recently as last year, the Department of Transportation and OMB appropriately characterized ATC as an inherently governmental function. President Bush's proposed federal budget aims to privatize or contract out as much as 15 percent of current government functions.

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