A recent Wall Street Journal (WSJ) editorial endorsing the concept of privatizing air traffic control raised concerns among business leaders that the issue could gain traction once again. The WSJ editorial board wrote an editorial outlining the airline delays this summer and pointing to comments citing air traffic control (ATC) staffing as contributing to these issues.
“This illustrates why the U.S. would benefit from spinning off air traffic control from government, as countries such as Canada have done to salutary effect. Air traffic control could rely on user fees, instead of taxes, and not be hostage to special-interest politics,” the editorial board wrote.
In response, 10 business leaders, who are also pilots, came together to write a letter saying they take issue with such a “quick fix” and added, “We understand effective business practices and we know the aviation system first-hand, so we know why this concept has been rejected time and again.”
They opposed the concept of removing ATC from government oversight and handing it to a private board that could “pick winners and losers.” They also noted the safety, efficiency, and diversity of the U.S. system.
The U.S. ATC system is the world’s largest, safest, most efficient, and most diverse system, according to the business leaders. “Privatized systems in other countries have histories with funding instability (including during Covid-19), flight disruptions, strikes, and delays,” wrote the leaders from companies such as Green Burrito, Advantage Technologies, Commonwealth Eye Surgery, and Restaurant Equipment World, among others.
Richard Shine, CEO of Manitoba Corporation and signatory of the letter, told AIN, “I feel very strongly that this idea is a mistake for our country” and detailed his experiences of billing issues with Nav Canada. Noting the editorial was a recast of concepts that have been bandied around for years, Shine said his fear is that it could become a key issue once more.
The editorial came out as a provision surfaced in the U.S. House of Representatives on ATC privatization. While that measure failed to make it onto the FAA reauthorization bill before the House bill, the comprehensive aviation package still must get through the Senate and then receive final passage after differences are resolved via a conference committee.