Aviation

Air traffic privatization effort has been slowed, Rep. Ron Estes says

U.S. Rep. Ron Estes speaks at a Wichita Aero Club luncheon on Tuesday at the Doubletree by Hilton Wichita Airport.
U.S. Rep. Ron Estes speaks at a Wichita Aero Club luncheon on Tuesday at the Doubletree by Hilton Wichita Airport. The Wichita Eagle

The dragon hasn’t been slayed, but a Kansas congressman said it appears a move to privatize the nation’s air traffic control system has been slowed.

Speaking at a Wichita Aero Club luncheon on Tuesday at the Doubletree by Hilton Wichita Airport, Rep. Ron Estes, R-Wichita, said he supports a re-authorization of the Federal Aviation Administration, but not a legislative effort attached to it to turn over the FAA’s air traffic control system to a “quasi-government organization.”

Reauthorization is the funding that allows the FAA to operate every year. The FAA’s funding this year runs out Sept. 30, at the end of the federal government’s fiscal year.

“We still need to get the FAA authorization done,” Estes said. “We’re big advocates of that. Let’s take out the so-called privatization effort, move forward with authorization and let’s come back and revisit what might make sense for air traffic control moving forward.”

He said his concerns with air traffic control privatization are that “were giving up a lot of assets” and “we’re giving up control.”

For the time being, Estes said, the privatization effort has been stopped.

“I wouldn’t use the term ‘we’ve slayed the dragon’ yet,” Estes said, responding to a question from the audience. “We’ve at least paused it or got it to slow down.”

The “we’ in this case, he said, is “a wide consortium of people across the country” including Congressional delegations from Kansas and Oklahoma, as well as some from Texas. He said the group has put in an amendment in an appropriations bill for 2018 to prohibit any funding from being spent on the privatization effort, “even if the process gets voted on.”

“We’ve got to get that passed through appropriations as well,” Estes said.

Estes echoed the assertions of the general and business aviation industries that a private organization would likely be run by an independent board of directors comprising airline officials that “want to make sure they control how the process works, how they change rates, add rates.”

“And from a general aviation standpoint, we’ll get lost in that shuffle,” he said.

Proponents of air traffic control privatization say their proposal exempts all general aviation from being charged user fees, and that general aviation users would pay into the system the same way they currently do.

Jerry Siebenmark: 316-268-6576, @jsiebenmark

  Comments