The privatization of the air traffic control system could endanger opportunities for oversight and diminish rural air services, according to 5th District Congressman Ralph Abraham.
That was the thrust of remarks offered by Abraham, R-Alto, in a speech on the House floor on Monday.
In the days leading to his speech, Abraham and and U.S. Reps. Steve Russell, R-Okla.; Tom Cole, R-Okla.; Ron Estes, R-Kan.; and Walter Jones, R-NC; sent a letter to Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy that detailed the many reasons why ATC privatization is bad for skies.
Abraham, who is a pilot, and Russell have been leading efforts in the House to prevent ATC privatization language from being included in the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill. Their efforts are having success as consideration of the FAA reauthorization bill has been delayed after it was initially scheduled for this week.
“Our airspace is a public resource and a great national treasure. Control over it should not be handed over to a private board with no oversight from Congress and, therefore, no obligation to represent the best interests of the citizens of the United States,” Abraham said during his speech on the House floor. “Modernization should continue to be our goal, and Congress can get there without jeopardizing control and safety of our national airspace.”
Abraham contends that privatizing ATC would risk our national security. Privatization would remove the Congress and the President’s oversight authority and place control of our nation’s skies with a private corporation made up of special interests.
“We have the safest airspace in the world, but privatizing the air traffic controllers will put the safety of our skies at risk,” Abraham said. “Replacing Congressional oversight with a private corporation would threaten the United States’ ability to maintain the integrity of our airspace, would put at risk the thousands of missions the military conducts in our skies each day, and would give private contractors access to classified data — all of which undermines our national security.”
Additionally, ATC privatization would be harmful to rural areas like Louisiana’s 5th Congressional District. A private board driven by profits would prioritize air traffic services in places where it can raise revenue, which would lead to a reduction in service for rural areas with smaller populations. Instituting a private user fee model — as ATC privatization would do — would reduce revenues to the Airport and Airway Trust Fund, which is critical for upgrades and maintenance at small and medium-sized airports.
“Reliable air traffic services and airport infrastructure are essential for rural areas to attract business for economic growth and for all Americans to have access to safe and efficient travel. This plan is bad for rural America,” Abraham said.