What's With Those Privatization Ads, Anyway?
Perhaps you've seen
them -- TV ads claiming that Congress is about to privatize air
traffic control. The AOPA says those ads are "bending the
"Make no mistake. AOPA is adamantly opposed to any effort to
privatize air traffic control or charge user fees for safety
services," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "We have fought, and
will continue to fight, attempts to take the responsibility for
aircraft separation and control away from the federal
"If anybody tries to tell you that AOPA supports privatizing
ATC, you tell them that's a damned lie," Boyer said. "AOPA is
dedicated to the benefit of all general aviation, particularly GA
pilots. It's a much broader vision than that of a union
The people responsible for the truth bending are in leadership
positions of unions representing FAA employees.
"You have to understand their motivation," Boyer said. "Their
job is to protect the jobs and the work rules of the federal
workers who voted for them. And AOPA certainly has no gripe with
the dedicated, hard-working air traffic controllers who supply
needed services to the entire aviation community.
"However, AOPA's job is to protect pilots, airports and general
aviation. That's why we support the FAA reauthorization bill (also
called Vision 100). The bill actually prevents ATC privatization
for at least four years.
"Now let's consider what else the bill does for general
aviation," Boyer continued. "It adds new protections from the
'pilot insecurity' rules. It provides some $3.2 billion for
improving airports, some of that earmarked specifically for general
aviation airports. It will force the government to reexamine and
justify airspace restrictions like the Washington ADIZ or the
'Mickey Mouse TFRs'. It adds new penalties to prevent another
airport closing like Meigs Field.
"Those things aren't high on a union boss's priority list, but
they're all very important to general aviation pilots."
The labor union TV ad
would make you think that the bill before Congress would privatize
all of air traffic control. But the bill actually prohibits
transferring ATC out of the government for at least four years.
When you watch and listen very carefully, the ad is really
talking about a part of the bill that directs FAA to look at some
69 control towers and consider whether any of them should be
staffed with contract employees.
Many AOPA members fly from airports with contract towers
already, and most report they are pleased with the
service. Contract towers are less expensive for
the taxpayer as well. The bill does not require FAA to
contract any of those 69 towers. And FAA has already said it
wouldn't contract the busier or IFR towers.
But the bill does have a four-year moratorium prohibiting the
FAA from transferring aircraft separation and control functions to
any public or private entity other than the United States
"We are disappointed that the reauthorization bill stops short
of declaring ATC 'inherently governmental,' as AOPA's members
wanted," said Boyer. "This means the issue of privatizing air
traffic control will continue to be a distraction for government
policy makers and the aviation community. But it also means ATC is
protected for four years, and that gives us four more years to work
with Congress on strengthening and extending that protection.
"It's not the best bill in the world. Like all far-reaching
legislation, it was born of compromise," Boyer said. "But those
compromises include significant benefits for general aviation and
the more than 550,000 GA pilots. And most important, it prevents
ATC privatization, and it prevents user fees."
Union leaders don't necessarily care about the cost of
flying, or GA airports, or pilot regulation, or airspace
restrictions unless there are union jobs attached," Boyer
continued. "They look at what's good for organized labor,
not what's good for aviation or the taxpayer."