Editorial: Privatization is on the Way
Thursday, July 13, 2017 at 5:06PM
Ed Downs in AOPA, ATC, Aviation Support Groups, FAA, NBAA, National Airspace System, Privatization, air traffic control, aviation, aviation industry, general aviation

By Ed Downs

This editorial view underwent many changes in the writing process. Fortunately, readers are rescued from what began as an “angry rant” by the letter from aviation industry leaders, which is included in this editorial opinion. 

This writer listened carefully, and with an elevated level of concern, as President Trump assembled a group of supporters to surround him as he announced plans to modernize the FAA and Air Traffic Control system. This modernization includes “privatization,” a term yet to be defined in a manner that allows informed comment. But, this observer was very concerned that only airline executives, ATC union representatives, and politically appointed bureaucrats from the Department of Transportation were present to represent American Aviation. Lacking was any representation from the operational side of the FAA, business aviation, general aviation, or aviation product manufactures, the principle users of all class G and E airspace and more than 90 percent of this country’s public use airports. 

Also of concern were remarks that implied that airline delays and problems with airline service are all a matter of ATC inefficiencies and a total lack of modernization, with the current ATC structure being outmoded and dependent upon WWII technology. It was also stated that Canadian and European ATC models were considerably better than what we have in America, a glaring “apples to oranges” comparison. It can only be said, most kindly, that the words spoken by President Trump contained significant “misunderstandings,” possibly guided by large corporate and union entities that do not have the welfare of the National Airspace System at the core of their quest for “privatization.”

There is no doubt that the current FAA structure, especially at the management and political levels, is part of “The Swamp.” Over the past 15-plus years, we have seen a continuing trend towards the elimination of operationally qualified personnel from leadership roles, instead, turning the leadership of the FAA over to political appointees, financial managers, personnel departments, and directives to implement social change, not technical improvements. Billions of dollars dedicated towards technological improvements have been absorbed into the bureaucratic process with no apparent benefit. 

This writer has personally worked with some of the finest individuals in aviation, FAA employees who are in many cases hampered by Agency inefficiencies and political intrigue that prevents even the most skilled and dedicated FAA employee from achieving goals we all agree are needed. President Trump is correct, the FAA needs work, but on behalf of an entire infrastructure, not just the needs of specific corporate entities. 

Take a look at the following open letter to President Trump, thoughtfully prepard by an amazing variety of aviation support groups that represent our industry in Washington DC, often wading waist deep in “The Swamp.” Note that both AOPA and NBAA provide additional thoughts on President Trump’s comments in the pages of this issue. Make sure your voice is heard as the “privatization” discussion continues.


June 5, 2017

President Donald J. Trump The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

This letter is in regard to your address today, which outlined principles for transportation-infrastructure investments, including those related to air traffic control.

Our associations represent the individuals and companies that make up a significant portion of the diverse and interrelated general aviation industry in the United States. This is an industry that generates more than one million jobs, and more than $200 billion for the nation’s economy. It is worth noting that the majority of all general aviation in the world today takes place in the U.S. and we appreciate your support for our industry. Simply put, general aviation in America is the envy of the world.

Today, the U.S. air traffic control system is the best in the world, moving more aircraft, more safely and efficiently, than any other country. Working with Congress and the Federal Aviation Administration, aviation stakeholders have been able to ensure that our system operates for the public benefit, providing access for all stakeholders to airports, heliports and airspace, and encouraging competition and innovation.

As you know, for over a year, some big airlines have pushed for a new governance and funding model for our nation’s aviation system, based on systems in other parts of the world. The general aviation community has very real and long-standing concerns, which include but are not limited to user fees. These concerns are based on our operating experiences in these foreign systems and the impact they have had on general aviation.

We respectfully request that you provide ample opportunity for all stakeholders and citizens to carefully review, analyze, and debate any proposed legislation changing the governance and funding for air traffic control.


Air Care Alliance, Aircraft Electronics Association, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, Citation Jet Pilots, Commemorative Air Force, Experimental Aircraft Association, General Aviation Manufacturers Association, Helicopter Association International, International Council of Air Shows, National Agricultural Aviation, Association National Association of State Aviation Officials, National Air Transportation Association, National Business Aviation Association, Recreational Aviation Foundation, U.S. Parachute Association, Veterans Airlift Command.

As a final editorial note, remember that most of these organizations will have booths at the upcoming EAA AirVenture, 2017. Be sure to stop by, join up, and express your support of their positions regarding the “privatization” discussion.





Article originally appeared on In Flight USA (http://www.inflightusa.com/).
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