Air traffic control bill may not be good for general aviation

Published 12:30 am Wednesday, August 23, 2017

South Alabama Regional Airport board members learned about a bill in Congress that would move air-traffic control from the Federal Aviation Administration to a non-profit corporation.

The bill is sponsored by Rep. Bill Shuster, who wants to modernize equipment and training for controllers faster than under FAA.

“It ends decades of wasteful spending on failed programs and broken promises,” Shuster said. “It gets Washington out of the way of innovation in aviation.”

Airlines support the bill because it will allow more planes to fly.

If passed, the corporation would be made up of a 13-member board, which includes a CEO, two members appointed by the secretary of transportation, one for passenger airlines, one for cargo airlines, one for regional airlines, one for general aviation, one for business jets, one for controllers, one for commercial pilots and two at-large seats chosen by the rest of the board.

General Aviation airports and advocates are worried that the corporation would favor airlines at busy airports and higher fees would be charged.

SARA Executive Director Jed Blackwell said he spoke with Rep. Martha Roby and she invited him to attend a conference call.

“It does not seem very good for general aviation,” Blackwell said.

Blackwell said one of the issues with the bill is that a private pilot wants to fly from SARA to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, they currently do not have to pay fees for air traffic control. Under the bill, they would.

Blackwell said that Roby was considered a swing vote.

The FAA doesn’t support the bill either, he said.