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Thu, Mar 30, 2017

Smaller Airports Fight To Keep ATC Under FAA Control

Fear Higher Fees And Domination By Major Airlines

Smaller cities and GA aviation hubs like Wichita, KS firmly in the camp of keeping ATC under the control of the FAA, but their lobbying efforts fall far short of larger cities and major airlines.

The Wichita Spokesman-Review newspaper reports that the city's Mayor, Jeff Longwell (R), joined 117 other mayors of cities across the country to send a letter to Congressional leaders opposing the plan to spin off ATC to a private, non-profit corporation.

“On behalf of the tens of thousands of communities around the country, we are concerned about the very real and dire ramifications of eliminating congressional oversight of this public air transportation infrastructure,” said the letter, dated Monday.

While the major airlines and trade associations have spent millions on lobbying to have ATC stripped from the FAA, the city of Wichita paid one lobbyist $80,000 to make its case in the halls of the Capitol.

Victor White, the director of Wichita’s Dwight D. Eisenhower Airport, says the system is safe, efficient and not broken. White and Selena Shilad, the executive director of the Alliance for Aviation Across America, say the comparison to Canada, which has privatized its air traffic control system, is not relevant. Shilad said that the amount of air traffic in Canada is "miniscule" compared to the U.S. "We're so much larger and more diverse," she said.

Among the major airlines, Delta is the notable exception, opposing the plan to privatize ATC.

About 88 percent of the nation's airports eligible for federal funding do not have scheduled air service. "There is real concern here, particularly among small and midsize communities," Shilad said. "We're thrilled that Wichita joined."

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