While the House vote on the 2016 FAA Reauthorization Act appears to be on hold for the moment, Bill Shuster, Chairperson of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and sponsor of the AIRR Act, has gone public to defend his position. Shuster wrote two pointed editorial letters last week, one to the New York Times arguing against an article titled “Don’t Privatize Air Traffic Control” and another scathing rebuttal to the editor of the National Review, emphatically titled “The AIRR Act is not a Union Giveaway.”
In his letter to the New York Times, Shuster says that the author has “missed the point, ” stating that while domestic air travel is expected to increase, the current “antiquated system” will not be able to keep up. Pointing out that the FAA has had decades to modernize the system, Shuster gets to the issue close to conservative hearts when he reminds the public that cost and time estimates for modernization keep going up:
The Federal Aviation Administration has been struggling for decades to modernize the system, wasting billions of dollars. The Transportation Department’s inspector general has testified that earlier cost estimates for NextGen — $40 billion — no longer hold. Costs may triple and take until 2035. Past piecemeal reforms have failed to improve the federal aviation agency.
Saying that global experts embrace the approach of privatization, Shuster concludes his letter by stating that his proposal is the best solution for a safe and efficient system. In his letter to the National Review, Shuster seems incensed by the accusation that the move to privatize the Air Traffic Control system is simply catering to the powerful unions involved.
Saying that the article “contains serious factual errors” he points out that only one union supports the AIRR Act, and then focuses his argument again on the inefficiency of the FAA. “Rather than further refute each of her inaccuracies, I will explain once again what we seek to achieve,” writes Shuster. “The United States is gradually but surely losing its position of global leadership in aviation because we are one of the few countries that continue to entrust ATC operation, a technology business, to a breathtakingly ineffective bureaucracy.”
Recent reports of wasteful spending from the OIG and a long growing dissatisfaction with the FAA have made it more likely that the AIRR Act may be passed. Privatization has been proposed several times before – from as far back as the 1980’s and 1990’s – but was previously unable to garner support. This time, the recent publicity about egregious inefficiencies at the FAA have combined with other forces to make it seem like a real possibility.
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
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