The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, the world's largest civil aviation organization, is telling Congress that proposals to privatize the FAA's air traffic control system (ATC) are unnecessary and possible threats to safety.
In a September 12 letter to members of the U.S. Senate, AOPA President Phil Boyer wrote that, "although such proposals are well intended, AOPA opposes any efforts toward privatization on the grounds that they are unnecessary with the passage of AIR-21, the landmark legislation approved by Congress earlier this year."
(The Senate Commerce Committee is scheduled to hear testimony from several ATC privatization proponents on Thursday, September 14.)
Boyer told Congress that AIR-21 addresses many of the causes of airline delays, which have prompted the ATC privatization proposals. "Delays are the result of a combination of many factors including weather, airline scheduling and labor issues, an aging air traffic control system, and inadequate airports," said Boyer. "AIR-21 provides the resources to fix those problems that are within the government's control—ATC and airports."
Boyer noted that the legislation will increase the FAA's funding by an unprecedented $8 billion over the next three years, money that will "address the known weak points in the U.S. aviation system—modernization of ATC equipment and more runways for airports." AIR-21 increases funding for airport improvements by more than 60 percent.
The new legislation also brings significant management reform to the FAA's air traffic control system. The new 15-member FAA Management Advisory Council (MAC) will be the "board of directors" for ATC. Boyer noted that the search is already under way for a new chief operating officer to ramrod the much-needed system improvements.
Boyer said the privatization proposals fail to recognize the inherent conflict between keeping safety paramount and others' interests in the economic "bottom line."
"Air traffic control is not a business; it is a vital safety service," said Boyer.
"The entire aviation industry supports AIR-21," Boyer concluded. "Let's give it a chance to work before we begin tinkering with the system again."
The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, based outside Washington, D.C., represents more than 360,000 pilots who own or fly three quarters of the nation's 206,000 general aviation aircraft. General aviation aircraft comprise 96 percent of the total U.S. civilian air fleet.
September 13, 2000