GA Groups Launch Campaign Against ATC Privatization 

By Dave Hirschman, AOPA

The heads of general aviation advocacy groups gathered at the National Business Aviation Association annual convention in Las Vegas Oct. 10 to discuss the threats of so-called ATC privatization being considered in Congress. (Photo by Thomas B. Haines, AOPA)Leaders of U.S. general aviation organizations are unanimously opposed to so-called air traffic control privatization, and they’re launching a media campaign to counter “gross misrepresentations” by the airline-backed groups supporting it.

“Air traffic control privatization is the biggest threat to the future of our industry that we’ve ever seen,” said Ed Bolen, president of the National Business Aviation Association, during a panel discussion among GA leaders Oct. 10 at the NBAA convention in Las Vegas. “It’s being pushed by the nation’s biggest airlines and some front groups they’ve created.”

House Bill 2997 would transfer ATC and its billions of dollars in assets from the FAA to a 13-member board controlled by airline interests.

Front groups are running TV ads blaming private jet owners for airline delays and the slow pace and high costs of ATC modernization.

Aviation organizations are responding with their own ads in which Apollo 13 astronaut Jim Lovell, “Miracle on the Hudson” Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, airshow ace Sean D. Tucker, and others reject the move as a corporate giveaway that would harm U.S. security and ATC efficiency.

AOPA President Mark Baker, a panelist at NBAA, said the aviation groups’ efforts are working, and more than 85,000 members and supporters have called their members of Congress to oppose ATC privatization. House Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) is the main privatization backer, and he has pushed the measure for years.

“Momentum is on our side,” Baker said. “But I worry about fatigue setting in. This is a long game, and this issue isn’t going to go away until we have a change in leadership.”

The aviation community has created a website ( to spread information about this complex issue.

Experimental Aircraft Association President Jack Pelton, also an NBAA panelist, called ATC privatization “terrible legislation that could be catastrophic to general aviation.”

The Congressional Budget Office estimates ATC privatization will increase the federal deficit by $100 billion. Others who have studied it say it’s likely unconstitutional, and it’s likely to delay real modernization.

Baker, an executive in the retail industry before joining AOPA, said the proposal now before Congress isn’t really “privatization.” It’s simply a move to create a monopoly whose board is unaccountable to U.S. taxpayers.

“This is not privatization,” he said. “This is going to burden business aviation, general aviation, in a very big way.”

Shuster had planned to bring the privatization bill to a vote in the House this summer, but strong opposition from the aviation community blocked it.

“Members of Congress are listening,” Baker said. “They don’t have the votes at this moment.”

Bolen told NBAA attendees they shouldn’t leave the convention without calling their member of Congress to express their opposition to ATC privatization.

“We’ve got right on our side,” he said. “We’ve got numbers on our side. But it’s not enough. Do not leave this convention without your elected representatives knowing how you feel on this issue.”


General Aviation Groups Urge Congressional Transportation Leaders to Focus on a Consensus Driven, Bipartisan FAA Bill

The General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) on Sept. 14 joined five other general aviation groups in sending letters to transportation leaders in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, urging them to enact an extension of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) programs for at least six months and using that time to pass bipartisan, consensus driven FAA Reauthorization legislation that would address many critical aviation issues.

“There is a lack of consensus in the aviation community for Title II of H.R. 2997, the 21st Century AIRR Act, which seeks to effectively hand over control of our nation’s air traffic system to the airlines and special interests,” the letters state. “Removing Title II would ensure consensus and allow for our aviation system to continue to serve the traveling public and the aviation industry.”

The general aviation association leaders also emphasized the need for an FAA extension to ensure focus remains on the important progress being made on NextGen and needed airport projects. The groups cite a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report concluding the U.S. air traffic modernization program is on schedule.

The heads of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, Experimental Aircraft Association, General Aviation Manufacturers Association, Helicopter Association International, National Air Transportation Association and the National Business Aviation Association signed the letters.

The letters were sent to House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee Chair Bill Shuster (R-9-PA) and Ranking Member Peter DeFazio (D-4-OR), as well as Senate Commerce Committee Chair John Thune (R-SD) and Ranking Member Bill Nelson (D-FL).

For more information about the letter asking for an extension, as well as about GAMA, visit

Former Thunderbirds and Blue Angels Oppose ATC Privatization

As the threat of ATC privatization continues, six former team commanders of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and U.S. Navy Blue Angels have declared their strong opposition to the proposed legislation.

“It will add billions to our nation’s budget deficit, negatively impact our national security, and needlessly complicate border protection,” said retired Navy Capt. Greg McWherter in a video produced by the International Council of Air Shows.

These concerns are in addition to the threat privatization poses to the general aviation community, which would have little voice in the privatized system proposed by the House of Representatives in H.R. 2997.

“This is a deeply flawed piece of legislation that is opposed by the vast majority of people who understand the negative implications of this naked power grab by the airlines and their allies,” said ICAS President John Cudahy. “These former military officers are speaking out because they are genuinely concerned that the legislation could permanently damage our country.”

The officers urged the general public to voice their opposition to their elected representatives at



GAMA Marks More Than 40,000 Aircraft Equipped with ADS-B

The General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) on Sept. 18 welcomed the news that as of Sept. 1, rule-compliant Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) equipment is now on board more than 40,000 aircraft flying in the United States.

Air traffic control system modernization activities are accelerating worldwide. It is vital that aircraft owners begin to make informed decisions about how to comply with emerging and existing regulatory mandates by selecting the right equipment for their aircraft’s typical mission. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has estimated that 100,000 to 160,000 general aviation aircraft will need to be equipped with ADS-B Out before the Jan. 1, 2020, mandate.

“We’re now just over two years out from the FAA compliance deadline,” said GAMA President and CEO Pete Bunce. “As we move forward, knowing that date will not change, it is essential that those operators who haven’t yet, make a plan for equipage to avoid having their aircraft grounded and losing its residual value.”

Since the FAA announced the mandate, general aviation manufacturers have worked hard to design, develop, certify and make available ADS-B products that enhance safety for operators at a reasonable cost. Some solutions for light general aviation aircraft are available for a range from $1,200 to $4,000, each providing significant safety benefits when presented on an ADS-B IN capable display. The FAA is also offering a $500 rebate to offset an owner’s cost on an eligible aircraft until midnight tonight.

“By choosing to equip now, operators are investing in their safety and ensuring they meet the 2020 deadline before installation lines grow long,” added Bunce. “We are very pleased with the continuous growth in equipage, and manufacturers will continue working with the FAA and operators to facilitate equipage as the deadline approaches.”

For more information about equipping your aircraft with ADS-B, visit the GAMA website at



FAA Small Drone Rule Lets Unmanned Aircraft Soar

A host of new users is changing the world of commercial aviation thanks in large part to the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) small unmanned aircraft rule, Part 107 (PDF), which has now been in place for a year.  Under the new regulations, drones are changing the way countless jobs are done, from movie filming and real estate marketing to agricultural mapping and smokestack inspections.

The numbers tell part of the success story. Since the Part 107 rule became effective last August, more than 80,000 individual drones have been registered for commercial and government purposes. And more than 60,000 people have obtained a Remote Pilot Certificate required to operate a drone under Part 107.

The FAA’s Part 107 is making is possible for a broad range of entities to find innovative uses for drones. Take a look at these examples.

Responding to Disaster – Hurricane Harvey

Drones have been invaluable in supporting response and recovery efforts for Hurricane Harvey. The FAA has issued 127 authorizations to drone operators performing seach and rescue missions and  assessing damage to roads, bridges and other critical infrastructure; sometimes the agency has issued these authorizations within a few hours. In addition to the direct response and recovery efforts, several media outlets are operating drones over Houston to provide coverage to local residents and the world about flooding and damage in the area. All drone flights are carefully coordinated with manned aircraft operations to ensure the safety of everyone using the crowded Soth Texas airspace.

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta addressed the agency’s response to the “transformative role” drones are playing in Hurricane Harvey recovery operations in today’s remarks to the InterDrone conference.

Commercial use of drones is taking off.

Several major property insurance companies are using drones to examine homes after storms, capturing images and video in crystal clear quality without requiring a person to climb up to a potentially hazardous roof. Dozens of television stations around the country fly drones to bring fresh aerial views of breaking news at lower risk and cost than a typical news helicopter. Other commercial operators of unmanned aircraft are flying them to monitor construction sites, create topographical maps, survey vegetation and drainage on farm land, inspect pipelines and other gas facilities, and many other innovative tasks.

States and municipalities are using drones for infrastructure improvements.

The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development is saving the state hundreds of thousands of dollars by using drones to survey the median of I-10 for a cable barrier project. Officials in Minnesota and Ohio have flown drones to inspect highway bridges. And a company working with Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is using a drone to 3-D map the runways in about half the time as teams armed with cameras.

Drones are a valuable tool for first responders.

When combating structure fires, the Wayne Township Fire Department near Indianapolis flies drones to provide a valuable perspective on hot spots and other potential hazards. In the area around Fort Collins, CO, several law enforcement and fire departments have launched a regional drone program to assist in investigations, including serious crashes and backcountry search and rescue operations. The Idaho State Police are using unmanned aircraft to get birds-eye views of crash and crime scenes, including barricade situations, fatal accidents, hazardous materials spills, and natural disasters.

Scientific research gets a boost from drones.

At the U.S. Geological Survey, officials have mounted sensors on drones to gather more accurate data than satellite imagery for the large swaths of land the USGS is responsible for monitoring. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has a fleet of 54 unmanned aircraft ranging in wingspan from less than six feet to more than 115 feet; the drones collect data from areas that can be dangerous for humans, such as the poles, oceans, wildlands, volcanic islands, and wildfires. Researchers at Oklahoma State University are flying sensor- and camera-equipped drones into developing storms to acquire measurements during tornado formation that will help improve knowledge of how tornadoes form and increase the confidence in issuing tornado warnings.

Part 107 as it now exists isn’t the end of this success story. The FAA is using a risk-based approach to enable increasingly more complex UAS operations, including operations over people, operations beyond visual line-of-sight, and transportation of persons and property. The agency is capitalizing on each incremental step, making sure a framework of performance-based regulations can easily accommodate change while maintaining the United States’ unmatched aviation safety record. By 2021 – just four years from now—the agency estimates there could be as many as 1.6 million small drones (under 55 lbs.) in commercial operation.

As FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said in a recent speech, “The only limitation seems to be: How quickly we – all of us, across the industry – can make it happen, safely.”



The National Aviation Hall of Fame Names Velvet Thomas as 2017 A. Scott Crossfield Aerospace Educator of Year

The Board of Trustees of the National Aviation Hall of Fame (NAHF) announced last month that its 2017 A. Scott Crossfield Aerospace Educator of Year award will be presented to Velvet Thomas during the 55th Annual Enshrinement Dinner and Ceremony in Fort Worth, TX on Oct. 28, 2017. 

The Crossfield Award, founded in 1986 by NAHF enshrinee, engineer and test pilot  A. Scott Crossfield (1921-2006), is a juried annual competition to recognize one K-12 teacher for his or her exemplary use of aerospace in their classroom curricula. Velvet Thomas, this year’s award recipient, currently teaches third grade at Golden Poppy Elementary School and is celebrated for her hands-on approach to aviation education. 

Thomas’ non-traditional lessons have included taking students to watch the space shuttle re-enter the atmosphere and visit the Sage Planetarium. Thomas has also held take off and landing simulations in class and even taught students the pilots alphabet.

“While most teachers say ‘no’ to paper airplanes in the classroom,” says Thomas’ colleague Jeff Greenberg, “her lessons have included making a paper hyper-jet to teach about jets and creating WWII paper airplanes to teach the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor.” 

Thomas’ lessons don’t end in (or outside) the classroom. Her students regularly hear from guest speakers representing leading American aerospace organizations, including Northrop, Lockheed and NASA. Thomas embodies the Crossfield Award, and has inspired generations of students to dream about aviation as a career.

The National Aviation Hall of Fame, a not-for-profit organization, is the only Congressionally-chartered aviation hall of fame in the U.S. The NAHF honors the people: The industry leaders, pilots, aviators, engineers, scientists, astronauts and inventors who have made American aerospace what it is today.

The 55th Annual NAHF Enshrinement Dinner & Ceremony is open to the public by advance registration only. Sponsorship opportunities and individual seats are still available, but a capacity crowd is expected. To make reservations or for more information, visit or call 937-256-0944 ext.19.

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