In a letter today to the House Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, the National Air Transportation Association (NATA) responded to several assertions made in support of ATC privatization at last week’s Subcommittee hearing to review the Department of Transportation’s FY2018 budget request. “There are serious ramifications for general aviation in proposals to privatize our nation’s air traffic control system,” stated NATA Executive Vice President for Government Affairs William Deere, “and it is important the Committee have the complete set of facts.”
NATA’s comments focused on three specific Administration arguments including future congressional oversight, the current state of air traffic control surveillance, and a purported conflict of interest that exists between FAA’s safety and air traffic operations.
Congressional oversight: “Corporatizing ATC will certainly diminish congressional oversight,” stated Deere, “The proposal would force the FAA to accept changes in the National Airspace System without the scrutiny that has given us the unparalleled safety record we enjoy today. Coupled with provisions in last year’s Transportation Committee-approved legislation giving the corporation advantage over the FAA in court, it is clear that effective congressional intervention, which will be limited solely to the FAA safety function, is seriously diminished.”
Radar-based surveillance: “Even as the FAA was being praised at the hearing for the deployment of the Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast system (ADS–B), there appears to be little understanding of this new, transformational technology,” stated Deere. “The GPS air traffic control system that is purportedly the goal of ATC corporatization is already deployed, needing only aggressive equipage by stakeholders — particularly the airlines.”
Conflict of interest: “There is a line of business within FAA Aviation Safety specifically charged with independent safety oversight that must sign-off on any changes in air traffic regulations,” stated Deere. “This often poorly understood relationship and interdependence is critical to ensuring that the interfaces between, and the dependencies in each area, are properly accounted for. The Administration proposal would place a wall between these entities, raising the very legitimate concern that overall system safety will be undermined.”
The association has looked at these and other arguments often used in support of privatizing air traffic control in more detail in a white paper “Myths and Facts Surrounding Air Traffic Control Corporatization.”