During the first day of the annual EAA AirVenture aviation convention Monday, the focus was at least partly on fighting a bill in Congress.
At a rally, EAA CEO Jack Pelton and other general aviation leaders voiced their concerns about the proposed air traffic control privatization bill.
“If we don’t get up and make our voices heard very very loud, this could be the most devastating thing to happen to AirVenture,” Pelton said. AirVenture bills itself as the world’s largest aviation convention, drawing hundreds of thousands of people to Oshkosh every year.
U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pennsylvania, is behind the proposal.
Shuster believes the way air traffic control is run is inefficient.
“Previous efforts to reform the FAA and modernize the system teach us that the only way to realize these benefits is to get government out of the way,” he said.
The proposal would turn over air traffic control operations to a corporation, rather than the government.
Bill Fitch, a pilot from Iowa, said, “This is actually not privatization. in my opinion. It turns into being a monopoly. The airlines will control this, I do believe.”
Fitch was one of dozens of people who attended the rally in opposition to the bill.
“I’m very concerned about it,” he said.
Pelton says he doesn’t have confidence that a private company would be able to keep up the air tower that makes EAA a possibility.
“There’s a crisis there, there is no pathway that says this event is ensured to continue on,” Pelton said.
Around 85 people work in the tower during EAA each year. Pelton also expressed concern for air traffic control operators’ jobs all over the country.
The bill is currently working through the House. However, so far, the idea hasn’t gained much support in the Senate.
FOX 11 reached out to several of our local representatives and senators for comment, but did not hear back.