The writer is the manager of the Fairbury, Nebraska, Municipal Airport.
Even though it flies under the radar sometimes, the Fairbury Municipal Airport has been here for decades, and it is the unseen backbone for our community.
Visitors use our airport for travel, business and, occasionally, for medical services.
Our three agricultural application operators in the area assist the majority of farmers in the area, ensuring them maximum yields. The meat packaging industry here also relies on air access.
Fairbury Municipal’s economic impact is about $750,000, from visitor expenditures and general or business aviation activities.
Fairbury Municipal helps connect our local businesses to global markets and the rest of the world. But recent efforts in Congress to privatize air traffic control would have an enormous impact on Fairbury and other communities throughout Nebraska.
Proponents of air traffic control privatization want to take oversight from the Federal Aviation Administration and put it under the control of a group of private stakeholders largely influenced by the big airlines.
The motivations behind this push are obvious; it’s not about modernization, as the airlines often say — it’s about control.
To start with, despite being referred to as “privatization,” in truth, this restructure would in no way promote free market values. This private group of stakeholders would essentially be a government-sponsored enterprise like Fannie Mae.
It would have taxing authority but would be outside the oversight of Congress, and it would be unaccountable to the public.
It would not be subject to any kind of competition — not even an initial bidding process.
And it would add $100 billion to the national deficit, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
In addition, taxpayers would be on the hook for a bailout if the system became insolvent. So all of the benefits we normally associate with privatizing would simply not be realized.
What this plan would do is consolidate power under the airlines. Under this kind of a system, the big airlines would call the shots when it came to routes and access, taxes and fees, and system investments.
You can count on these decisions being made for the benefit of the airlines and their bottom lines. That means favoring the largest hub airports, where routes are most profitable, at the expense of local airports in places like Nebraska.
The bottom line is that the large airline companies should not dictate our national air traffic control system.
I’ve worked hard alongside members of the Fairbury Airport Authority to make our airport safe, efficient and attractive. Smaller airports such as ours are a lifeline to small communities, and if we leave it up to the large air corporations, we will lose this vital resource.
We should say no to air traffic control privatization.