Mesquite Mayor Al Litman joined more than 100 other mayors from all 50 states urging Congress to oppose privatizing air traffic control in a letter sent on Monday.
The letter was sent from the Alliance for Aviation Across America to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation as well as to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
The letter, in part, reads, “Over the last year, proposals have recently been forwarded to put this vital infrastructure under the control of a private entity dominated by the commercial airlines. On behalf of the tens of thousands of communities around the country, we are concerned about the very real and dire ramifications of eliminating Congressional oversight of this public air transportation infrastructure.”
The letter points to Canada and the United Kingdom as examples of why privatized air traffic control would not be good for the United States.
The Canadian program, the letter states, has shown to be more costly per miles flown. In the U.K., privatizing air traffic control has led to “more delays, higher fares, and reduced connectivity.”
Privatizing air traffic control would not have any impact on smaller airports, like the one in Mesquite, because smaller airports often don’t use air traffic control systems. Instead, the mayors are calling attention to an issue they feel will greatly change the way America’s busiest airports function.
In February, the Associated Press reported that President Trump favored doing away with the Federal Aviation Administration’s responsibility to oversee air traffic. In place of FAA oversight, air traffic control would likely be supervised by private corporations controlled by the airline industry.
“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. These are the same airlines that have cut back flights to smaller communities by more than 20 percent 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 letter reads.
Litman said because of the magnitude of the task, the federal government should retain responsibility.
“I prefer it be in government control, I don’t like private interest getting involved in those aspects,” Litman said. “Transportation like that, on that scale, should be government oversighted.”
In Nevada, Litman was joined by Fernley Mayor Roy Edgington Jr., Henderson Mayor Andy Hafen, Yerington Mayor George Dini, and Fallon Mayor Ken Tedford Jr.
“There’s certain times when (privatization) is appropriate, and other times when it’s not,” Edgington said.
He said putting air traffic control in private hands could open the door for a strike, which would slow down the country’s air traffic, and lead to other financial obstacles.
“You privatize this and someone will want to profit,” he said. “Economically, it puts us at the mercy of private companies, it puts us at the mercy of unions, its not a good idea.”
Hafen said by privatizing air traffic control, the priorities of smaller airports might be left behind.
“For the sake of passenger safety and our economy, I believe air traffic control should remain a federal function and not something left in the hands of a few private companies that may not be concerned about the needs of Henderson, Mesquite or other Nevada cities,” he said.
The idea to privatize air traffic control was brought to Congress last year by Rep. Bill Schuster (R-Pa.). The legislation was approved by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, but never made it to the Senate.