The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) today welcomed strong opposition to proposals for privatizing the nation’s air traffic control (ATC) system, recently expressed by Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, the pilot who performed a heroic emergency landing of a disabled US Airways airplane on New York City’s Hudson River in 2009.
“My real issue, and I think for many people, is that we have a wonderful and unique freedom in this country, this unfettered, wonderful aviation system that anyone can participate in safely and efficiently,” Sullenberger told Yahoo Global News Anchor Katie Couric. Read the full interview.
“In most countries, it’s either too restrictive or too expensive for an average person to fly, and the only way you can go is on an airliner or a military flight,” continued Sullenberger. The freedom to fly in the U.S. “is something that we need to protect and preserve. So why in the world would we give the keys to the kingdom to the largest airlines? Because they definitely have their own agenda – to lower their costs.”
NBAA has long had significant concerns with the notion of privatizing ATC, which would turn over control of the system – a natural monopoly that currently serves the public’s interest, and is overseen by the public’s elected representatives in Congress – to a new entity governed by private interests unaccountable to congressional oversight.
Sullenberger said that pending legislation, H.R. 2997, would cede power to the commercial airlines “by removing oversight of the air traffic control system from the FAA and much of the oversight that Congress currently has and give it to a group of people, stakeholders basically controlled by the largest airlines, to control access to and pricing of access to the air traffic control system.
The controversial legislation was introduced earlier this year by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-9-PA) as part of a continuing congressional debate over reauthorization of funding and programs for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
In his interview with Couric, Sullenberger highlighted the impact that privatization legislation would have on general aviation.
“You know, most of aviation is not airline flying. But in terms of total airplanes and numbers of operations, there’s much besides airline flying that’s important to our economy – general aviation, noncommercial flying includes corporate aviation, recreational aviation and a variety of other things that have a great benefit,” he said.
Sullenberger added that he learned to fly more than 50 years ago. “So I’ve been flying for 44 percent of the entire history of aviation, and I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly. I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t.”
NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen welcomed Sullenberger’s comments.
“When a hero with a half-century of flying experience speaks out against privatization, members of Congress should pay attention,” Bolen said. “We couldn’t agree more with Capt. Sullenberger’s comments, and we hope they are considered carefully during the FAA reauthorization debate on Capitol Hill.”
Sullenberger adds his voice to a growing list of people and groups that have raised concerns about privatizing the ATC system, including federal and local lawmakers from both parties, organizations on the political right and left, more than 100 aviation organizations and a majority of American citizens.
With H.R. 2997 expected to be considered by the full House before the end of the month, NBAA has mobilized the business aviation community to voice opposition to the bill. On June 23, Bolen issued a Call to Action urging association members to use NBAA’s online Contact Congress resource to oppose the bill that Bolen has termed, “the single greatest threat to the future of general aviation we have faced.”
NBAA’s Contact Congress resource also provides a means for social media users to alert their lawmakers to the industry’s opposition to the bill.
Furthermore, NBAA has introduced a toll-free action line – 855-265-9002 – to connect association members with their elected representatives, with a brief list of suggested talking points for callers. Visit Contact Congress to learn more about advocacy tools to oppose H.R. 2997.
While a full vote on H.R. 2997 looms in the House, the U.S. Senate last month delivered a resounding “no” to the matter in that chamber’s FAA reauthorization bill, S. 1405, which addresses the need for aviation system modernization without calling for ATC privatization. NBAA issued a statement of support following that bill’s June 22 introduction. Read NBAA’s statement about S. 1405 in its entirety.