The White House is threatening to veto the FAA reauthorization bill because it would prohibit the FAA from privatizing air traffic control. The bill, approved by the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday, includes language from Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.) that would prohibit outsourcing air traffic control to the private sector.
"If the final legislation includes provisions that would inappropriately prohibit the conversion of FAA facilities or functions from the federal government to the private sector, the President's senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill," reads a " statement of administration policy" from the White House.
"The administration's tough stance leaves nothing to the imagination of those of us in aviation who fear a privately run air traffic system—not to mention the airline control of such—and the fees that would go with privatization," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "It's clear what their agenda really is."
Meanwhile, AOPA worked hard Thursday afternoon to get anti-privatization language passed in the Senate by supporting an amendment offered by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.). That amendment was passed 56-41.
"I don't understand why they would be willing to veto a $59 billion bill over just that language," said James Morhard, Democratic spokesman for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, as reported by GovExec.com. "This suggests that they really are planning substantial changes to the air traffic system that they don't want us to forestall," he said.
That despite previous assurances from the FAA, including a memo from Administrator Blakey to agency employees, that controllers aren't candidates for outsourcing.
"The administration can protest all it wants that it has no plans to contract out air traffic control," said Boyer, "but the fact that they're willing to threaten a veto of a FAA spending bill that contains so many good things for aviation over this language makes clear their real intent. Privatized air traffic control and the user fees that go with it is one of the three biggest concerns among our 400,000 members."
The FAA reauthorization bill (H.R.2115) does include several AOPA-backed provisions that address issues of interest to general aviation pilots. At the top of the list is an AOPA issue addressed by Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) who developed a fix for the "pilot insecurity rule," guaranteeing a third-party appeals process for pilots facing certificate revocation if suspected of being a "security risk."
It also includes a "Meigs Field legacy provision" establishing a $10,000 per day fine for failing to give 30 days' notice before closing an airport listed in the FAA's National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems.
To help pilots in the Washington, D.C., area, AOPA member Rep. Robin Hayes (R-N.C.) sponsored an amendment that requires the FAA to justify to Congress the Washington, D.C., Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) within 30 days and then every 60 days thereon that it is in existence. His amendment also requires the FAA to outline changes that will improve the efficiency and minimize operational impacts, if the ADIZ remains in effect.
Also included is a "sense of the Congress" that Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport be reopened to general aviation. This may act as a catalyst to reopen transient operations at the "DC-3" airports in Maryland.
Businesses in the Washington, D.C., area and banner towers would be eligible for reimbursement for losses due to security costs incurred by post 9/11 security restrictions.