Has Privatized ATC Faded Away?

Congress is not actively pursuing a new FAA Re-Authorization right now, and another continuing resolution extending funding is likely. Politico just reported that House Transportation Committee Chair, Bill Schuster, is no longer insisting on a change to contracted Air Traffic Control or Controllers.  

It has never been clear exactly what "privatizing" or "out-sourcing" air traffic control meant or what benefits were projected. Various draft bills were floated, from directive policy to various amendments to re-authorization or funding legislation. However, the dirty details include safety, cost and implementaion issues of great complexity:

  • Could liability for an emergency result in payments to airlines? Would all air passengers be required to buy or have included in fares travel insurance?
  • How many entities would be contracted? One national contractor? By region? By Radar Facility type (Airport, TRACON, En Route)? By Metroplex? Before, during, or after NextGen deployments?
  • Would Controller proficiency be managed by FAA at each facility or only monitored by FAA throuhg reports and inspections (like aircrew or aircraft maintenance?
  • Would existing controllers be retained on the job? There is a union, Federal retirement and health insurance plans.

Only a fool would have pursued this very long. But there you go.

 Politico: Shuster drops ATC push

By Lauren Gardner, Brianna Gurciullo and Tanya Snyder 

With help from Stephanie Beasley

ATC EFFORT GETS GROUNDED: House Transportation Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) announced Tuesday evening that he is ending his push to sever air traffic control operations from the FAA. "Despite an unprecedented level of support for this legislation - from bipartisan lawmakers, industry, and conservative groups and labor groups alike - some of my own colleagues refused to support shrinking the federal government by 35,000 employees, cutting taxes, and stopping wasteful spending," Shuster said in a statement. "Although our air traffic control reform provisions did not reach the obvious level of support needed to pass Congress, I intend to work with [Sen. John Thune ] and move forward with a reauthorization bill to provide long-term stability for the FAA."

INTO THE DUSTBIN: It's the latest in a string of attempts that stretches over decades to privatize segments of the air traffic control system -- and, as of last night, the latest one to fail. It's a big loss for the airline industry, which was a huge driver behind the effort, and an equally large victory for the general aviation community, which even as early as this week was gearing up for a major push against any attempt to bring the bill (H.R. 2997 (115)) back up on the House floor.

ALL OVER BUT THE SHOUTIN': Shuster's white flag means lawmakers should now begin talking more openly about an extension for after the current authorities expire March 30, leaving the only real question how long it will be, and whether it will be clean. Regardless, it will give lawmakers some breathing room to pass a long-term bill in both chambers and march it through a conference committee (still a tall order even in the best of circumstances, especially with other competing pressures on the calendar).

From an uncopyrighted article released 02/28/2018.

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