Several advocacy groups have formed a coalition to oppose
privatization of U.S. air traffic control (ATC).
The new group, Americans Against Air Traffic
Privatization (AATTP), said Tuesday that it would deliver a petition bearing
more than 130,000 signatures to Congress.
The initiative comes as Congress is faced with a March 31
deadline to pass an FAA reauthorization bill. House Transportation and
Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), backed by the trade
group Airlines for America (A4A), is expected to include a proposal to transfer
control of ATC from the FAA to a
nonprofit corporation as part of the reauthorization package. The
nonprofit would likely be modeled after the nonprofit Nav Canada, which
oversees ATC in Canada.
The new coalition warned Tuesday that passenger fees
would skyrocket if ATC were privatized.
“An FAA reauthorization package that puts our air traffic
control system into the hands of an untested and unaccountable entity is not in
the interest of America’s air passengers and workers,” AATTP spokeswoman Julia
Alschuler said in a statement. “We cannot afford to experiment with a new
system that will inevitably create additional bureaucratic delays to the
implementation of new technologies that our system needs.”
Opponents of privatization, notably including Delta Air
Lines, argue that the reorganization process would delay the implementation of
NexGen, the GPS-based technology that is replacing the radar-based system
currently in use in the U.S.
Supporters, however, argue that turning ATC over to a nonprofit,
controlled by a board of public and private stakeholders, would speed NexGen
implementation while removing ATC from the uncertainty of the highly
politicized appropriations process in Congress.
In a statement Tuesday, A4A said the new coalition is
arguing against positions no one is taking.
“We want to see more air traffic controllers hired. We
want to make the system even more safe. And most importantly, we want to make
flying better for the traveling public. Members of Congress should want the
same thing,” the trade group said.
AATTP is comprised of the advocacy groups Public Citizen,
People Demanding Action, Daily Kos, Progressive Congress, American Family
Voices, RootsAction.org and the Courage Campaign.
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland), a member of the House
transportation committee, and Eleanor Holmes Norton, the nonvoting delegate who
represents Washington, D.C., in the House, are backing AATTP.