Comprehensive U.S. FAA reauthorization was left off this week’s schedule for consideration on the House floor, suggesting the bill’s controversial air traffic control reorganization proposal still has not attracted sufficient votes for passage. But the bill’s primary backers, including House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pennsylvania) and House General Aviation Caucus co-chair Sam Graves (R-Missouri), continue a major push to sway undecided votes in the House and to soften opposition within the ranks of the general aviation industry. And, while time is running out for now—the House is expected to enter August recess after this week—the bill still could be placed to the agenda as a last-minute addition.
Shuster and Graves have been reaching out to general and business aviation leaders, both individual company chiefs and organizations, to state their case for creating a user-funded air traffic organization separate from the FAA. Their message is resonating to a point, with one industry individual noting, “I have to say, to the unwashed, they tell a good story.”
One also noted that Graves indicated that he has not heard a full explanation of the general aviation objections to protections placed in the bill for access and against new user fees on the industry, which he said were his requirements for support. This elicited a reaction from another industry leader that Graves “not only knows [why we object]…he knows better.”
The general aviation groups, meanwhile, are working to continue to explain their concerns about the issue to both Congress and industry. The community highlighted a new “ATC is Not For Sale” campaign that showcases opposition to the ATC proposal from famed pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger.
Also, general aviation leaders are hosting a town hall meeting today during EAA AirVenture 2017 to appeal to attendees to contact their members of Congress. “Over half of the 70,000 flights per day in the U.S. system are general aviation flights, and the proposal in this bill will not protect airspace access and air traffic service for the industry,” said General Aviation Manufacturers Association president and CEO Pete Bunce.
Other supporters of the reform proposal recently have written letters or issued statements in support. More than a dozen people who served under the Clinton and Bush Administrations—including former Transportation Secretaries Federico Pena and Norman Mineta—signed onto to a letter to lawmakers, saying, “With more than 60 other countries having acted, reform of the U.S. air traffic control system is overdue. We urge you to support it.”
The former officials signing the letter go on to state that they don’t necessarily agree with everything in the House bill as outlined: “In particular, we think it could be improved by making owners of business jets (turbine aircraft) subject to the same cost-based charges that commercial aircraft operators will face.” But they add, “We believe the bill overall would benefit our nation and deserves bipartisan support.”