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Private jet company backs Trump's air traffic control overhaul
A private jet company has endorsed a controversial overhaul of air traffic control, which critics have claimed would hand over too much power to the big commercial airlines.
NetJets Inc., which specializes in private and business aviation, said it supports legislation to transfer the country's air navigation system to a private, nonprofit corporation because air traffic controllers face too much political and financial uncertainty under the control of the federal government.
The measure has been formally endorsed by President Trump, who has his own fleet of private aircraft.
"Such systematic challenges ultimately touch on all aviation operations within the U.S. airspace and impact not only efficiency, but safety as well," said Alan Bobo, executive vice president of NetJets.
The spinoff proposal - tucked into legislation that would reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) - stalled last year, facing opposition from lawmakers who were concerned that general aviation users and small airports would lose access to the airspace and not be adequately represented under the new model.
This year, Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) worked with Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), a pilot who voted "no" on the proposal last year, to reach a compromise. Under the new version, all general aviation users would be exempt from any user fees imposed by the new entity and the board makeup would be more diverse than a previous proposal.
Shuster touted NetJets' endorsement as proof that the changes were enough to win over some of the general aviation community, which includes corporate jets and private pilots.
"My colleagues and I, including GA pilot Congressman Sam Graves, went to great lengths to make sure this bill protects the interests of the general aviation community and included every legislative request they asked for," Shuster said in a statement.
"Today's letter from NetJets, a leader in general aviation, reflects those efforts. With this bill, we will improve aviation for all users of the system."
Shuster hopes the bill will be brought to a House floor vote next week, but it's unclear whether it will have enough support to pass. Other general aviation groups have remained opposed to the measure, along with lawmakers citing a whole slew of concerns.
Congress was forced to enact a short-term extension of the FAA last week, because the agency's legal authority expired on Sept. 30. It is now authorized to operate until March.