Christine Pratt Wenatchee World
Kuntz lends name to oppose private air-traffic control
March 10, 2017
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  • Wenatchee Mayor Frank Kuntz is one of 115 mayors around the country to sign a letter to Congress that opposes a proposal to privatize the county’s air-traffic control system.

    The Alliance for Aviation Across America, a nonprofit interest group, announced the letter by news release Tuesday.

    The Alliance says the effort to privatize U.S. air-traffic control is being pushed by big, commercial airlines and would put the current, government-run system “under the purview of a private board of mostly commercial interests.”

    The board would direct everything from taxes and fees to airport investments and access, the news release said.

    Kuntz said Wednesday that small airports like The Wenatchee Valley’s Pangborn Memorial are better off with the current air-traffic system with oversight by Congress through the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

    “The FAA has been really good to this airport. It paid for 90 percent of the runway extension,” Kuntz said. “When you look at small airports, most are closing. Ours is expanding. My view is, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. For small, rural airports, this is working out well.”

    Privatization, the mayors’ letter reads, could disrupt air services to the small communities that depend on it for such services as law enforcement, disaster relief, market access, passenger travel and to transport blood and organs to residents.

    Alaska Airlines operates three flights daily between Pangborn and SeaTac International Airport. Local efforts have long been underway to add a second commercial airline with service to another city.

    Proponents say a privatized system could move more quickly and cheaply toward reducing airport congestion and delays, The New York Times has reported.

    The mayors’ letter says privatization could increase costs and delays.

    “…the Canadian, privatized system, which is often held up as the system the U.S. should emulate, is more expensive than the system we have in the U.S. by miles flown,” the letter says, adding that privatization in the United Kingdom has increased fares and delays at London airports.

    “So, while we all agree that modernizing our air traffic control system and investing in American infrastructure should be among our highest priorities, privatization is not the answer,” the letter says.