The Helicopter Association International (HAI) announced immediate opposition today to the proposed privatization of Air Traffic Control services.
HAI announced in a statement today that the association strongly disagrees with proposed changes to the Air Traffic Control system, stating that with the release of the White House’s budget blueprint, the Helicopter Association International (HAI) is alarmed that the current administration is pursuing the transfer of oversight of air traffic control (ATC) from the FAA to a private corporate entity that will be under the control of an airline-dominated board of directors.
“HAI members currently enjoy a good relationship with and high level of service from the air traffic control division of the FAA, which is universally acknowledged as the safest and most efficient system in the world,” said Matthew Zuccaro, president and CEO of HAI. “It would appear that the primary rationale for this initiative is the airlines’ desire to gain control of the airspace, which is not in the best interest of other aviation stakeholders. The turnover of control of the National Airspace System to the airlines represents a clear conflict of interest. As the dominant force on the proposed governing board of the new ATC entity, the airlines stand to gain the most by focusing on their particular needs.”
The helicopter industry takes comfort in the fact that the air traffic control system is under the watchful eye of Congress, and that FAA ATC daily operations are conducted by the recognized professionals within the air traffic controller community.
“The current system provides an appropriate level of focus on the unique needs of the helicopter industry, subsequently providing the necessary funding and support for our operational requirements,” Zuccaro noted. “ATC privatization presents a potential to see the removal of these protections and related support for general aviation.
“The helicopter industry is a major benefactor and supporter of advancing the NextGen initiatives and ongoing efforts to modernize and increase the efficiency of ATC,” continued Zuccaro. “Currently, the interests of all users of the National Airspace System have a voice through the regulatory process of the FAA as well as Congressional oversight. This allows for the advancement of important safety improvements and efficiencies benefiting all aviation segments. We are deeply concerned that we would lose that voice, should privatization occur.”
HAI membership believes that the removal of air traffic control from Congressional and FAA oversight represents a serious threat to general aviation and an agency that operates the safest air traffic system in the world. “Placing control of ATC into a private corporation dominated by the airlines has the potential to steer resources and investments toward airline-centric needs, potentially reducing general aviation access to certain airspace and airports while also negatively affecting the needs of rural America,” said Zuccaro.
HAI thanks Senators Moran and Klobuchar and the leaders of the Senate Appropriations Committee for their recent letters urging stakeholder discussion and collaboration on the issue of ATC privatization. In Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao’s confirmation hearing, the Secretary herself acknowledged the significant implications of ATC privatization and the need for national consensus and dialogue.
HAI stands opposed to ATC privatization and associated user fees. HAI will continue to work with Congress and the administration in crafting common-sense policies aimed at implementing NextGen technology in an efficient, cost-effective manner.