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Shuster backs down on last-minute ATC kerfuffle

AOPA members make a difference

Less than 24 hours after proposing an amendment that had shades of his previous effort to “privatize” air traffic control, Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) backed down on his plans thanks to an immediate outpouring of opposition by general aviation pilots. In response to calls by AOPA and other general aviation associations for action, pilots flooded the switchboard at the U.S. House of Representatives, telling their members of Congress to oppose Section 5 of Shuster’s “manager’s amendment” to H.R. 4, the bill to provide long-term funding to the FAA.

The Capitol is home to the U.S. Congress and its House and Senate. The legislative branch has significant influence over general aviation. Photo by David Tulis.

Shuster introduced the amendment late on April 23, just hours ahead of the planned vote on H.R. 4. The amendment included a plan to move management of the air traffic organization from the FAA to its parent entity, the U.S. Department of Transportation, which has no expertise in running such an operation. The amendment also called for the establishment of a 13-seat “advisory” board, the composition of which looked remarkedly like the one from Shuster’s bill for the so-called “privatization” of ATC. The chairman pulled that bill in February after two years of debate when he could not get enough votes to advance it in the House.

“Once our members weighed in to express their opposition to the amendment, we had a constructive dialog and we are grateful that Chairman Shuster withdrew the most troubling language in Section 5 of the amendment,” said Jim Coon, AOPA senior vice president of government affairs. “We hope now H.R. 4 can move forward. All of aviation will benefit from a long-term funding bill.”

“Once again, the power of a large, active, and engaged membership base proved important in stopping this onerous proposal,” said AOPA President Mark Baker. “AOPA members responded immediately Tuesday afternoon to our calls for action and House members quickly knew that general aviation was not going to allow this to pass. As always, we are thankful for AOPA members who took immediate action to get this last-minute deal stopped in its tracks. You made this happen.

“Let’s get this reauthorization bill passed to guarantee stable funding for the FAA for the next five years and then let’s call a summit of air traffic control stakeholders to develop a plan to modernize the system in a transparent and productive way,” Baker continued. “We are anxious to work with the Administration, the airlines, and others to continue to advance our air traffic system, which is already the largest, safest, and most complex in the world. But we all know we can’t rest on our laurels. The system must continue to advance, and we support that.”

Thomas B. Haines

Thomas B Haines

Contributor (former Editor in Chief)
Contributor and former AOPA Editor in Chief Tom Haines joined AOPA in 1988. He owns and flies a Beechcraft A36 Bonanza. Since soloing at 16 and earning a private pilot certificate at 17, he has flown more than 100 models of general aviation airplanes.
Topics: Advocacy, Capitol Hill, FAA Funding

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