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.

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