As you may know, the White House recently convinced Republican members of a House-Senate conference committee to contract out the operation of 69 air traffic control towers to the lowest bidder. The towers on ths list include Prescott and Scottsdale, AZ; Van Nuys (the busiest general aviation airport in the world) and Santa Monica, CA; Centennial and Jeffco, CO; Fort Lauderdale and Tamiami, FL; Dupage and Palwaukee, IL; Hanscom Field, MA; Flying Cloud, MN; Spirit of St. Louis, MO; Caldwell and Morristown, NJ; Hillsboro, OR; Addison, TX; Manassas, VA; Boeing Field, WA; and many others. (The full list is available http://www.natca.org/assets/Documents/mediacenter/HITLIST1new.pdfhere.)
This decision was a direct repudiation of bipartisan votes in the House and Senate for legislation that would permanently prohibit privatization of air traffic control.
The record of privatized ATC in other countries is not encouraging. According to the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), since Britain’s privatized National Air Traffic System (NATS) was established in 2001, the government has been forced to provide financial bailouts valued at two-thirds of the system’s original sale price.Â NATS expects a 230-billion-pound ($406 billion) shortfall in its budgeted income over the next four to five years. Meanwhile, technological failures have led to multiple system shutdowns and operational irregularities, and staff morale continues to be at all-time lows. The records of Airservices Australia and Nav Canada are similarly disheartening.
ATC in the United States could start down this same slippery slope if the bill crafted by a few members of Congress is passed in September, which is when it’s scheduled for a vote. (In a remarkably cynical move, Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), the chairman of the committee that adopted this provision, protected his own towers in Alaska from privatization.)
The National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) launched a national television and radio campaign on Aug. 25 to send a message that air safety would be jeopardized by this privatization plan. To see their radio, TV, and print ads, http://www.natca.org/mediacenter/private_ads.mspclick here.
This is not a Republican or Democratic issue: pundits from across the political spectrum, http://www.natca.org/legislationcenter/priv_otherssaying.mspfrom Tom Daschle to Rush Limbaugh, agree that privatizing ATC is a bad idea. I think every US pilot should give this issue careful consideration. More information is available http://www.natca.org/legislationcenter/privatization.msphere. Please contact your representative and senators to express your opinion.