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Don’t confuse air traffic privatization for modernization

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In his Aug. 7 opinion piece, Ian Adams certainly expressed some strongly held opinions about business aviation — an essential American industry supporting over a million jobs and $200 billion in economic activity. Adams is, of course, entitled to his opinions, but they should be based on facts and devoid of key omissions.

As just a start, he left unstated that the entrepreneurs and companies using business aircraft pay to use the system fully and legally, the same way most readers of The Hill pay for the use of their cars on the nation’s roads: at the pump, through a fuel tax. Also overlooked was the fact that a number of government studies have shown that the users of these smaller aircraft pay equitably for their use of the aviation system.  

{mosads}The allegations about business aviation in the piece came, ironically, alongside supposed claims of support for air traffic control (ATC) “modernization,” and they distract from a real motive, which is to promote ATC privatization, a risky scheme long pushed by the big airlines.

Given that ATC privatization is really what’s at the heart of the matter, let’s get the facts on the table when it comes to this concept. Simply put, the idea amounts to a wholesale giveaway of the public’s aviation system to a private, airline-dominated entity, which would be unaccountable to the public or Congress.

Under this system, the airlines and their allies would have sweeping authority to focus mainly on their business interests, thereby restricting aviation-system access, directing resources into the hub airports most beneficial to their bottom line, while creating an anti-consumer, anti-competitive, anti-investment situation. 

Those on the losing end of this equation will be the countless citizens, companies and communities that rely on access to the aviation system through the mostly small, “general aviation” aircraft used for business, civil services, humanitarian flights and a host of other needs.

Obviously, this troubling scenario has nothing to do with real ATC modernization, which is just one reason it is highly unpopular. NBAA is joined in opposing privatization by a majority of the American public, a bipartisan group of congressional representatives, over 100 business leaders and more than 100 U.S. mayors, as well as consumer groups, government watchdogs, think tanks on the political right and left and more than 100 other aviation industry groups.

This large, diverse and growing group of people and organizations understands that privatizing the nation’s ATC system would be a grave mistake.

Simply put, when it comes to ATC privatization, let’s have some substance, not just sizzle, in this debate. That means we should not confuse the airlines’ plans for privatization with real ATC modernization. It also means we should not mislead readers of The Hill about why NBAA, and so many others, are opposed to this highly troubling idea.

Ed Bolen is the president and CEO of the National Business Aviation Association, which promotes the aviation interests of organizations utilizing general aviation aircraft for business purposes in the United States and worldwide.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill. 


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