After an outpouring of opposition from general aviation groups, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pennsylvania) revised a measure that would have created an Aerospace Management Advisory Council to steer the air traffic control system within the FAA. The measure was a compromise from the more sweeping Shuster proposal to carve the ATC system out of the FAA altogether. But it drew alarm from general aviation groups, many of which issued calls to their members to immediately voice their objections to lawmakers.
Ed Bolen, president and CEO of NBAA, called the measure a “thinly disguised attempt to give control of the system to the big airlines.” In its call to action to members, NATA said the amendment represents the first step in the direction of privatization, impeding “the achievement of our collective goals of supporting modernization and FAA reform, and advancing the safety of the National Airspace System.” GAMA president and CEO Pete Bunce, meanwhile, called the measure “a real threat.”
Shuster instead agreed to significantly revise the language, leaving a measure that would create a chief technology officer position to work with the COO on ATC management.
The committee chairman had called the advisory council a “modest reform” and stressed, “This is not a privatization bill…nothing is being taken out of the FAA.” But he said the advisory council was dropped after “we heard from folks in the community.”
While he agreed to remove the measure, Shuster reiterated that he “strongly believe[s] Congress must pass real air traffic control reform” and that he sees that happening “somewhere down the line.”
“Once our members weighed in to express their opposition to the amendment, we had a constructive dialogue and we are grateful that chairman Shuster withdrew the most troubling language,” said Jim Coon, AOPA senior v-p of government affairs. “We hope now H.R. 4 can move forward. All of aviation will benefit from a long-term funding bill.”
The revised language is included in a larger “manager’s amendment” that will be offered to H.R.4, the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018. The House Rules Committee yesterday finalized the parameters for a vote on the bill on the House floor, allowing more than 100 proposed amendments to be offered for consideration. These include an amendment that essentially would establish a mandatory Age 70 retirement for NetJets pilots.
A number of provisions designed to address noise issues and/or restrict operations at local airports such as Santa Monica and Hawthorne in California were blocked. Also blocked was a measure to permit GA airports to restrict the number and type of aircraft operations for compensation or hire occurring at the airport.
The FAA reauthorization bill is anticipated to reach the floor shortly.