The mayors of 118 mostly small and medium-sized U.S. cities have signed letters in opposition to a proposal to privatize the U.S. air traffic control (ATC) system.
“Privatization would hand over decisions about infrastructure funding, taxes and fees, consumer complaints, noise and many other priorities to a board of private interests dominated by the commercial airlines,” reads the March 6 letters, which were sent to the chairman and top Democrat of both the House and Senate transportation committees. “These are the same airlines that have cut back flights to smaller communities by more than 20% in recent years, and have stated their intent to divert investment from small and mid-sized communities to large ones where the airlines are most profitable.”
The letters were prepared with the help of the Alliance for Aviation Across America, a general aviation advocacy group that opposes the proposal to remove operational control of ATC from the purview of the FAA and place it under a nonprofit run by a board of stakeholders.
The measure, which was introduced by House transportation committee chairman Bill Shuster (R-Penn.) last year, never made it to a vote on the House floor. But Shuster plans to reintroduce the privatization proposal this year as part of a bill to reauthorize FAA funding ahead of a Sept. 30 deadline.
The major U.S. airlines, except Delta, support the measure, saying that the private model would speed an ongoing effort to replace the U.S.’s radar-based ATC system with the GPS-based NextGen system. Supporters also say that privatization would remove ATC from the uncertainty of the politicized Congressional appropriations process.
As proposed last year, the board of the nonprofit ATC corporation would be comprised of 11 appointees, including four selected by mainline airlines and two selected by general aviation interests.
The Trump administration has yet to say whether it supports privatization.