FAA Reauthorization: Privatized Air Traffic Control is a No Go

As Congress once again looks at infrastructure and FAA Reauthorization, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) has decided not to pursue privatized Air Traffic Control as part of the next Reauthorization package.

Shuster’s AIRR Act has been on the table for two years now, but has been unable to get through the Senate.  The Act called for sweeping reform of air traffic control, including privatization: an idea endorsed by President Trump.

In a statement last June, Shuster had said that he appreciated the President’s support and stood firmly behind privatization.
“I commend the President for his leadership in challenging the old way of thinking in Washington.

“Innovative thinking – not bureaucracy – is what defines the American spirit. That spirit, displayed in Kitty Hawk, launched aviation and made America the forerunner of this vital industry.  Now is the time to unleash the American aviation spirit once again…

“This reform will bring our aviation system into the 21st century.  As Chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I would never support a policy that would endanger the safety of our aviation system and passengers.  The fact is this is a proven, good-government reform that has been successfully done around the world in over 60 other countries, and will improve our aviation system for all of its users and all of our communities – large and small.”

Now, however, it appears that Shuster has given up.  While claiming that the idea had “unprecedented support” he nonetheless conceded that the idea would not become law.  In a statement released this week, Shuster said:

“Many, including myself, continue to believe that the air traffic control provisions of the 21st Century AIRR Act are good government reforms, and necessary for the future efficiency, effectiveness, and safety of our entire Nation’s aviation system and its users.

“We built strong support for this critical reform over the last two congresses, and we had a golden opportunity to move beyond the status quo and accomplish positive, transformational change with this bill.

“Despite an unprecedented level of support for this legislation – from bipartisan lawmakers, industry, and conservative groups and labor groups alike – some of my own colleagues refused to support shrinking the federal government by 35,000 employees, cutting taxes, and stopping wasteful spending.”

Shuster has also said this year that he will not seek reelection for a tenth term in the House of Representatives.

At this time, the extension of an extension of an extension of the FAA Reathorization package will run out at the end of September, which should leave lawmakers ample time to negotiate.  But the FAA, currently led by acting administrator Dan Elwell, has been without a permanent leader since Obama-appointed Michael Huerta stepped down at the end of his term.  Rumors in Washington say that President Trump favors his own personal pilot – whom he described in an interview as “a smart guy and knows what’s going on,” for the job.