National Business Aviation Association president and CEO Ed Bolen recently gave an impassioned assessment of the looming threat of U.S. air-traffic-control privatization and the potential for domination by the airlines. “This is a tough group to trust with the future of the air-traffic system,” Bolen said at a joint meeting of the Teterboro Users Group and the Morristown Aviation Group at New Jersey’s Teterboro Airport. “Right now our public airspace serves a public purpose. The airlines are trying to seize control of that so they can operate it to serve themselves and their airports.”
Past attempts at privatization, including last year’s measure, which failed to reach the House floor for a vote, took place in a different political landscape, he noted. The White House has not yet weighed in on the plan, but, Bolen said, “We do know this: the President has put forward what he calls a ‘skinny budget,’ and that skinny budget talks about privatizing the air-traffic-control system. We don’t know the details, but we do know the concept.” Bolen added that he expects the House and Senate to hold hearings on the ATC issue over the next few months.
“What we are seeing is the airlines and the administration are becoming a lot more aggressive in promoting this,” he warned. In the past, the NBAA had urged its members to contact their congressional representatives, but with this change in the dynamic, Bolen requested that industry members make their case known not only to the highest-level officials in their companies but also to local entities such as mayors, city councils, and chambers of commerce. “The airlines have spent tens of millions of dollars on this effort, and we’re still here,” he said. “That’s because people of this community have gotten active and engaged.”