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Day Two of Chao ATC Hearings

On Thursday Secretary Elaine Chao appeared before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to testify on FAA Reathorization and air traffic control (ATC)  privatization. This was her second hearing of the week, after having testified on the same issues in the Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday.

The proposal to separate ATC from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is welcomed by most in the majority party of the House Committee, but democrats remain staunchly opposed. Sec. Chao, again, defended President Trump’s legislative principles on ATC privatization against serious scrutiny.

Lawmakers pressed the secretary on whether the administration would provide protections for small community air service and the Contract Tower program. She responded broadly claiming that under the proposed entity funding certainty would be increased. Sec. Chao’s answers to these questions were less than direct in most cases and did little to appease the concerns of many of the democrat members on committee.

Members of the committee explained that the general public had very little trust in the airlines managing ATC. Sec. Chao was emphatic that this was not the administration’s proposal and that airlines would have only two of the thirteen board seats.

The Democrats insisted that handing over billions in taxpayer-funded assets would amount to a corporate giveaway and pointed out that Canada and the United Kingdom were both compensated when they switched to a privatized model. Sec. Chao stated that requiring the entity to purchase the assets would only result in higher fees and fares for consumers.

Democrats on the committee pointed out that Ranking Democrat Member Peter DeFazio (OR-04) had introduced a bill titled the Aviation Funding Stability Act, which would make the Airport and Airway Trust Fund (AATF) mandatory annual spending. They claimed this would provide the agency with a steady stream of funding, one exempted from government shutdowns, sequestration or other budget cutbacks.

Now that the House Transportation Committee has completed its five-hearing series, NASAO expects a FAA Reauthorization bill will be introduced in the very near future. We expect the Senate to do the same but without the inclusion of ATC privatization.

NASAO will continue to monitor all major developments and advocate on behalf of its collective membership to Congress on issues of importance in the upcoming FAA Reauthorization bill. Please contact John Shea at jshea@nasao.org or (703) 610-0272) with any legislative inquiries.

Categories: News
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