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Former NASA astronauts: Abort mission to privatize ATCFormer NASA astronauts: Abort mission to privatize ATC

“Before we were astronauts, we were pilots,” said Jim Lovell, the heroic commander of Apollo 13, which was safely brought back to earth after a critical failure during a mission to the moon. Lovell, along with Tom Stafford, Robert "Hoot" Gibson, and Ken Cockrell, all former NASA astronauts, recently voiced their objections to air traffic control privatization in a video produced by the International Council of Air Shows, Inc.

Photo by Mike Fizer

In the short video, the four astronauts speak out against the move to privatize our nation’s ATC system. As some of the most recognized astronauts in the world, and among the very few who have ever flown in space, these experienced pilots know how precious the airspace system is, saying “our freedom to use it now hangs by a thin thread.”

The video comes in the wake of the ATC privatization debate in which the House of Representatives is considering a vote on the 21st Century AIRR Act (H.R. 2997) to separate air traffic control from the FAA and give it to a board controlled by the airlines.

Lovell said the legislation “would put the traveling public at unnecessary risk.”

Cockrell said, “It would surrender the management of our national airspace to a private organization with no accountability to Congress or the executive branch.”

Just a few weeks prior to the release of the astronaut video, another hero, known for piloting US Airways Flight 1549, known as the "Miracle on the Hudson," spoke out against ATC privatization. Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger voiced his opposition in a brief video, which he agreed to do without any compensation, saying privatization would threaten our nation’s “security, safety, access and basic fairness.” And he is not alone: According to a recent survey, the majority of Americans think ATC privatization is a “bad idea.”

The Sullenberger ad is part of the general aviation coalition’s effort to fight H.R. 2997. More than 145 organizations have united in the battle to oppose privatization, and opponents need help to fund the campaign and air the video. To donate to AOPA’s advocacy fund, please visit the website. All of the proceeds will go toward fighting ATC privatization.

AOPA Communications staff

Topics: Advocacy, Airspace

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