General aviation industry leaders warned on 24 July the annual Airventure fly-in could be shut down within five years if a proposal in the House of Representatives to privatize the US air traffic control (ATC) system becomes law.
A private ATC operator is unlikely to provide the 85 qualified controllers necessary to run the annual fly-in that attracts tens of thousands of small aircraft, says Jack Pelton, chairman and chief executive of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), the organization that hoses Airventure.
The proposed bill also provides no mechanism to protect the privatised ATC operator or the EAA from liability claims, making the event more difficult to insure, he adds.
“You stack that up it becomes essentially impossible,” Pelton says.
NBAA president and chief executive Ed Bolen also raises concerns about the general aviation community’s recourse, if the private ATC organisation makes an unpopular decision. As an example, Bolen cites a scenario in which Teterboro airport, a popular private aviation terminal in the New York area, is shut down by a private ATC operator on days when bad weather limits access to LaGuardia or Newark airports.
Under the existing system, NBAA can lodge a protest against such a decision with members of Congress, who can intervene directly with the US Federal Aviation Administration to reverse the decision, Bolen says.
“The bill on the table says, if you don’t like the way the air transportation system is working in the United States that has been built with our taxes over the last several decades, lawyer-up and go to court,” Bolen says. “You no longer have a member of Congress that has any say in this issue.”
The bill proposed by Representative Bill Schuster passed the House transportation infrastructure committee last month and awaits a vote by the full body. It proposes to transfer the Air Traffic Organisation from the FAA to the American Air Navigation Services Corporation, a non-profit co-op governed by a diverse group of stakeholders.