FAA Privatization: There They go Again!

Why does Congress keep returning to the idea of FAA Privatization? Why must general aviation keep fighting off efforts to privatize US Air Traffic Control? Dave Higdon reviews the latest threat to emerge via the 2019 government reorganization proposal...

Dave Higdon  |  29th June 2018
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Dave Higdon
Dave Higdon

Dave Higdon is a highly respected, NBAA Gold Wing award-winning aviation journalist who has covered all...

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ATC Tower at Private Airport

Why does Congress keep returning to FAA Privatization? Why must general aviation keep fighting off efforts to privatize US ATC? Dave Higdon reviews the latest threat to emerge in the 2019 government reorganization proposal... 
Four little words uttered by Ronald Reagan on October 28, 1980, went a long way to undermine then-President Jimmy Carter in his campaign to win re-election to the White House.
Responding to Carter's efforts to tap into public uncertainty about the former California governor and his qualifications for the Oval Office, Reagan said, “There you go again!”
Into the present day, President Trump's new 2019 government re-organization proposal again contains language aimed at privatizing the FAA's Air Traffic Service.
Just weeks after the most recent privatization effort slumped to an overwhelming defeat, the GA community respond: “There you go again!”
Last Thursday six aviation associations – AOPA, EAA, GAMA, HAI, NATA and NBAA – jointly and individually released statements strongly opposing the Trump Administration’s government-reorganization proposals, specifically because it includes the privatization of the US air traffic control services.
Profit Motive Inherent to Not-For-Profits

Several fundamental flaws exist in the Trump proposal that are unsurprisingly similar to other ATC privatization proposals from Airlines 4 America, Conservative groups and free-market gurus. Monopolies are inherently anti-competitive.
There’s nothing new about the drive behind this latest proposal, which comes from the myth of the not-for-profit efficiency. Some believe that not-for-profits don't scrimp and cut when finances are tight; that they're inherently more efficient in handling public moneys. Statistics and studies reveal these contentions carry little basis.
Not-for-profits must earn an operating profit to afford to buy the equipment they need, pay employees' salaries and benefits, and more.
The opening round of money needed is easy since the proposal gifts ATC to the airlines.
But this proposed entity would lack a fundamental of the free-market system that proponents say they want ATC to emulate – Competition. There would be no competition for its user fees and no control by the users.
There They Go Again

As the joint aviation association’s letter notes, “…this concept has been fully considered in the US Congress and rejected despite years of repeated attempts.”
Those repeated attempts go back years and each one failed to win even a modicum of popular support.
So why make a move that is guaranteed to make air travel more expensive and less convenient – with a guarantee of no service improvement? (ATC doesn't cause delays – the airlines' own scheduling does that.)
Unfortunately, a couple of months downstream of that win Congress has yet to pass the proposed five-year FAA reauthorization from which the lawmakers roundly rejected the prior ATC-privatization attempt.
“Instead of focusing precious time and resources on what amounts to nothing more than a distraction to the aviation community, the Administration needs to support a long-term FAA bill, like those passed by the House of Representatives and now pending in the Senate,” the aviation associations’ letter continues.
So, here we go again (and, it appears, will keep going until Americans wake up to the realization that so-called privatization of government services never results in lower costs and better service). The fight is on. Again.
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