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Legislation to Privatize Air Traffic Control Picks Up Support From Some Pilot Unions

Unions representing the pilots at Southwest and American have endorsed a plan to turn over management of U.S. air traffic control from the FAA to an independent not-for-profit entity.

A controversial provision in the FAA Reauthorization Bill has picked up some allies. Language in the legislation before Congress that will renew funding for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) would also strip the responsibility for air traffic control in the U.S. from the FAA and instead create a federally chartered, independent cooperation to oversee day-to-day ATC operations.

Unions representing the pilots for American Airlines and Southwest Airlines have now thrown their support behind the ATC privatization plan. Both the Allied Pilots Association (APA), which represents nearly 15,000 American Airlines pilots, and the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA), which represents an additional 8,000 flight deck crew members, were convinced to support the legislation after changes were made to give the unions a voice on the proposed new ATC entity’s governing board.

“For decades, we have watched valuable taxpayer-supported resources used in well-intended efforts to modernize the FAA and the air traffic control system, only to have those efforts thwarted or become obsolete at implementation due to the vagaries and inefficiencies of the federal funding mechanism,” APA president Keith Wilson told Air Transport World.

The move to privatize air traffic control operations has already earned the endorsement of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) which represents the more than 19,000 air traffic controllers in the U.S., as well as the nation’s largest airline industry lobbying group, Airlines for America (A4A). Delta Airlines, however, has come out in strong opposition to the plan, decrying the potential for skyrocketing landing fees and safety concerns. The biggest pilot union in the U.S., the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), also remains opposed to the legislation in its current form.

The bill to reauthorize the FAA and create a new air traffic control system in the U.S. has already cleared the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The current mandate that funds the FAA is set to expire at the end of March.

[Photo: Getty]

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