House Republicans on Thursday pulled the plug on a controversial plan to separate the nation’s air traffic control system from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
The debate over the proposal was turbulent, pitting Republicans and major airlines against Democrats, regional carriers and noncommercial flight operators.
Regional airlines complained the proposal to spin off air traffic control from the FAA would give too much power to major airlines. They argued they should have a seat at the table of any new air traffic control organization because they operate 45 percent of the nation's daily flights, often under the banner of major airlines.
Noncommercial flight operators
Groups that represent noncommercial flight operators often struggle for attention in aviation debates, but they told lawmakers they too were wary of giving too much control of the nation's aviation system to major airlines that dominate most conversations about flying.
Delta stood alone among major airlines opposing the plan. The company argued that the independent air traffic control proposal was a risky experiment that would raise prices for passengers.
House Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.)
The decision to ground the air traffic proposal is a major defeat for the House Transportation Committee Chairman after high-profile victories on earlier highway and water funding bills. Shuster has insisted the debate over restructuring the air control system is not over despite the forthcoming temporary FAA funding extension. He has been accused of being too close to major airlines after acknowledging he is in a romantic relationship with an airline industry lobbyist.
Airlines pushed hard for the proposal to spin off air traffic control from the FAA, arguing that an independent air traffic control agency could better manage efforts to modernize the technology that is used in flight navigation. They argued countries like Canada have moved to similar not-for-profit air traffic control systems with relative ease, but the proposal to do the same in the U.S. ran into strong headwinds in the House.