GOP expected to unveil air traffic control privatization bill

GOP expected to unveil air traffic control privatization bill
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House Republicans are expected to unveil on Wednesday a bill to privatize large portions of the nation's air traffic control system.  

The measure, from House Transportation Committee Chairman Bill ShusterWilliam (Bill) Franklin ShusterLobbying firm cuts ties to Trent Lott amid national anti-racism protests Ex-Rep. Frelinghuysen joins law and lobby firm Ex-Rep. Duffy to join lobbying firm BGR MORE (R-Pa.), is expected to call for the creation of a new nongovernmental agency that would take over air traffic control from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Shuster has signaled that he will include the privatization push in an upcoming funding bill for the FAA, whose federal funding is currently scheduled to expire on Sept. 30.  


"After examining various models, I believe we need to establish a federally chartered, fully independent not-for-profit corporation to operate and modernize our ATC [air traffic control] services," Shuster said during a speech in June at the Aero Club of Washington. 

The push comes as the FAA is in the midst of a years-long effort to discard the World War II-era radar technology currently used to manage airplane traffic in favor of a new satellite-based system, known as NextGen. But the conversion has hit turbulence amid missed deadlines and rampant budget cutting in Washington.

Shuster has said the new corporation's board would be composed of stakeholders from the aviation industry, with checks put in place to safeguard against conflicts of interest. 

He also it would be paid for by a "stable, self-sustaining and fair user fee funding structure," which he said would free it from "funding uncertainty, political meddling and bureaucratic red tape that plagued the FAA and ATC services for years." 

Unions representing air traffic controllers have opposed previous efforts to privatize, and travel and consumer groups have also been skeptical about the proposal. 

"The test we’re applying is whether the bill does something, anything, to address the needs of actual travelers — infrastructure and transparency will be biggies — or whether it is merely laden with items the airlines want," U.S. Travel Association Senior Director of Strategic Communications Chris Kennedy said of the proposal in an email to The Hill.

"If the latter is the case, look for us to voice our displeasure about the first draft of the bill early and often," he said. 

Shuster has expressed optimism that he can put a package together in time beat the Sept. 30 funding deadline. 

"I hope to introduce a bill later this month and consider it in committee after that," he said during his Aero Club speech. "In talking with House leadership, I believe we can have this bill on the floor sometime in July."