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Privatization of air traffic control could impact Presidio County airports

June 29th, 2017 under Top Stories

By NICK WINCHESTER

nick@bigbendnow.com

PRESIDIO COUNTY — The U.S. air traffic control system is “an ancient, broken, horrible system that doesn’t work,” remarked President Trump earlier this month during a speech he made for “Infrastructure Week.”

The proposal to privatize air traffic control (ATC), part of the administration’s infrastructure overhaul, could impact Marfa and Presidio airports, Presidio County Airports Director Chase Snodgrass told the Marfa Big Bend Sentinel and Presidio International.

“General aviation is vital to the economies of Presidio and Marfa, and it is general aviation that is likely to suffer under the proposed privatization to ATC,” Snodgrass said.

General aviation (GA), which refers to all operators that do not come under the category of commercial airlines, charter operators or the military, makes up the entirety of the operations that both Presidio County airports currently service. GA is a $219 billion industry that supports 1.1 million jobs, and includes a network of thousands of airports and heliports that connect many rural communities to the rest of the world, according to joint letter opposing ATC privatization.

Snodgrass fears that rural airports could see less business under the proposal as “the general aviation [industry] already believes air traffic control gives preferential to commercial airliners. The new proposal gives even more preferential treatment to commercial airlines.”

Snodgrass said there has been widespread opposition to the privatization proposals and a consensus that the justifications are unfounded. “There are just some things that don’t make sense to privatize because they serve the entire public,” added Snodgrass, who has been a pilot for 41 years during which he spent time flying for the U.S. Border Patrol.

The current system, Snodgrass said referring to the Federal Aviation Administration

(FAA), is “as near flawless as I’ve ever seen.”

Advocates of the proposal want to see ATC modernized, which although currently underway, has been described as “glacial.”

Much of the opposition comes from the general aviation side of the industry and Trump’s statement comes as a surprise considering the nation’s system handles far more traffic and maintains higher safety levels than any other in the world.

A consortium of aviation associations including the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), and Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), have written a joint letter in opposition to air traffic control privatization.

“After a thorough and detailed review of Chairman Bill Shuster’s (R-PA) proposal to remove our nation’s air traffic control operations from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA),” the letter reads, “we have concluded that these reforms, while well intentioned, will produce uncertainty and unintended consequences without achieving the desired outcomes.”

“We believe Chairman Shuster has raised the issue of reform in a meaningful and thoughtful manner and while we enjoy the safest most efficient air traffic control system in the world, we also believe that reforms, short of privatization, can better address the FAA’s need to improve its ability to modernize our system.”

“In addition, the billions of dollars and time that would be spent transitioning our nation’s air traffic control system to a not-for-profit entity can be better applied to the continuing progress to update and modernize our air traffic control system.”

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