We in the West are both blessed and challenged by our landscape. The sight of Lake Tahoe or the Sierra Nevada from the sky reminds me of our state’s natural beauty. But our mountains and deserts also separate our communities. Many of us rely on general aviation to keep connected and allow our businesses and communities to thrive. That’s why I am concerned by a proposal in D.C. to privatize our air traffic control system.
The big commercial airlines and their lobbyists are pressuring Congress to take our aviation system out from congressional oversight and give it to a private board. Privatization of our ATC could limit businesses and cut off access to critical services like such as emergency and specialized medical care, firefighting, search and rescue, and law enforcement. Our state’s remote communities rely on general aviation to have the same access and opportunities as the big cities.
I chose to get my pilot’s license because there was a general aviation airport right next to our office. The access and efficiency I gained helped my business grow in a way it wouldn’t have otherwise. Businesses of all sizes across Nevada rely on general aviation to transport goods, personnel, and parts faster than they could by road. Nevada’s general aviation airports have an annual economic output of over $275 million.
I have seen first-hand the impact that general aviation can have on someone’s life as a volunteer pilot for Angel Flight West. Pairing patients in need with volunteer pilots, Angel Flight helps ensure that people in Nevada can get to important care no matter where they live.
One mission that really touched me was flying a woman from Fallon to Las Vegas because she needed advanced diagnostic cancer screening that her rural medical center couldn’t provide. I flew her to three appointments – each one would have been a 16-hour round trip by car. By her final appointment, her prognosis was positive, all because she could get to the care she needed. If our air traffic control system were privatized, increases in fees and limited access to larger airports could ground charity flights like this.
The commercial airlines would have a substantial presence on this board, and be empowered to make critical decisions about the costs of using the system, even access and investment for rural communities and their airports. It seems clear to me who benefits from privatization: these airlines, not you and I. Nevada’s communities and businesses that rely on general aviation cannot risk being cut off. That’s why we need to tell Congress to oppose air traffic control privatization.
Shawn Linch is president of US Granite, based in Reno, and a volunteer pilot for Angel Flight West.