I have been involved in aviation since 1975, and recently was made aware of the legislation currently being debated in Washington that would alter the structure and governance of our air traffic control system. The way I see it, this proposed legislation, to privatize our air transportation system, would impact flying and access at our local airport and negatively affect our aviation system as a whole.
Our airport serves an important role in our community. We facilitate training for pilots at Vance Air Force Base; support for several businesses in the local area as well as those visiting Enid; law enforcement; medical evacuations; as well as a port for our local general aviation enthusiasts. Based on a recent economic study, Woodring’s existence has a total economic affect of $29 million to the local area per year.
The way I see it, the only reasons initiatives such as this should be put forward are for:
1) A substantial cost reduction; or 2) To increase the efficiency of our current system – but it does neither.
This move would, in fact, increase cost substantially. According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, this bill will cost nearly $100 billion over the next 10 years. Furthermore, if you compare the cost of the system with the Canadian system, which is the most common example given by privatization advocates as the model we should follow, our current system in the United States is actually less expensive by 8 cents per mile.
Secondly, this move would not have a positive effect on our efficiency. The reality is that about 80 percent of the current delays in air travel are currently either caused by the weather or the airlines themselves. The ongoing upgrade to the newer GPS based ATC system, NEXTGEN is already making our system more efficient. Additionally, a proposal to privatize our air traffic control system would take our air traffic control system out of government and remove Congressional oversight, effectively handing our skies over to an unelected board. I have big concerns about the decisions this board would make and where they would direct funding.
At the “end of the day,” this proposal does not affect a cost savings nor does it make the system more efficient. Therefore I believe should be abandoned.
As a side note, I am happy to see Rep. Steve Russell and Sen. (Jim) Inhofe lead the charge in opposing this legislation. Our skies are a valuable public resource and one we should continue to prioritize.
Dan Ohnesorge is the Manager of the Enid Woodring Regional Airport.