AOPA is once again asking Congress to knock down the possibility of privatizing the air traffic control system. AOPA President Phil Boyer yesterday sent a letter to members of a congressional conference committee, urging them to return air traffic control (ATC) to an "inherently governmental" function. The committee convenes soon to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the FAA reauthorization bill.
Both versions have language that would reverse a decision by the White House Office of Management and Budget to classify ATC as a "commercial" function, although they differ in scope.
The letter is a follow-up to the virtually daily contact AOPA's Legislative Affairs staff has maintained with congressional offices over the ATC issue.
"AOPA is extremely concerned about the administration's recent categorization of air traffic services as 'commercial' rather than 'inherently governmental,'" wrote Boyer. "This change makes air traffic control services susceptible to wholesale outsourcing or privatization—something AOPA is adamantly against."
"Our members have a longstanding concern that general aviation will suffer under the weight of costly fees and that services will be governed by and designed solely to meet the needs of the airlines," Boyer continued. "You only need look at the expense of flying in Europe under Eurocontrol and its impact on general aviation to see the future if ATC is not kept as an inherently governmental function."
Boyer told the conferees that privatization and user fees are of paramount concern to AOPA members, and that they have told the association time and again, ATC must remain a function of the FAA.
He concluded, "As the House and Senate come to agreement on the FAA reauthorization, we ask you to ensure that language is included that keeps ATC separation and control functions with the FAA. It is essential that any final language not touch the 'core' air traffic control functions."
Members of the conference committee include Reps. Don Young (R-Alaska), John Mica (R-Fla.), Vern Ehlers (R-Mich.), Robin Hayes (R-N.C.), Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), James Oberstar (D-Minn.), Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa), and Tim Holden (D-Pa.) from the House, and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), Sen. Ernest "Fritz" Hollings (D-S.C.), Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), and Sen. John Breaux (D-La.) from the Senate.
The conferees hope to complete their work before the annual August recess, which begins on August 4, 2003.