I have been involved in aviation since 1975 and recently was made aware of the legislation 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 affect flying and access at our local airport and negatively affect our aviation system as a whole.
Our airport in Enid serves an important role in our community. We facilitate training for pilots at Vance Air Force Base; provide support for several businesses in the local area as well as those visiting Enid; support law enforcement and medical evacuations; and act as a port for our local general aviation enthusiasts. Based on a recent study, Woodring’s existence has a total economic impact of $29 million on the local area per year.
The way I see it, the only reasons initiatives such as this should be put forward are for substantial cost reduction or to increase the efficiency of our current system – but it does neither.
This move would, in fact, increase costs substantially. According to the nonpartisan 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 caused either 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 the 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 it would direct funding.
At the end of the day this proposal does not create a cost savings or make the system more efficient. Therefore, I believe it should be abandoned.
As a side note, I am happy to see U.S. Rep. Steve Russell and U.S. 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.