The biggest threat to the future of our industry we have ever seen: that is how NBAA chief Ed Bolen this morning described airline-backed moves to privatise the US air traffic control system.
The organisation launched a television advertising campaign today, themed “ATC not for sale” and fronted by “leaders and legends” of aviation, including Apollo 13 commander Jim Lovell, Hudson River hero Capt Sully Sullenberger, and retired US Air Force four-star general Lloyd "Fig" Newton. It will run on cable stations watched by Washington DC politicians and their advisers. Lovell appeared as a keynote speaker at this morning’s opening general session to give his support in person to the campaign to keep ATC in the hands of the Federal Aviation Administration.
Although the privatisation proposal has support from all the US majors, several leading politicians and President Donald Trump, Bolen believes NBAA and other general aviation bodies have momentum on their side. He appealed to attendees not to “leave this convention until you have contacted your representative”.
He earlier told a media breakfast: “We are not asking you to run a marathon, or even take a day off work. We are asking you to take out your smartphone. It will take three minutes.” He added that while there was a strong lobby for privatisation, led by the airlines, “members of Congress want to be popular. They want to be liked. They don’t want to go against their constituents’ views.”
The airlines have funded a “six-figure campaign” to portray business aviation users as privileged abusers of the ATC system who want unfettered access, to the detriment of ordinary travelling airline passengers. However, NBAA describes the proposal to privatise ATC as “exchanging one monopoly for another” by “taking authority from the FAA and handing it to the airlines”. Bolen described a television campaign currently running on Washington DC stations as an “ugly caricature of what we do”.
The opening session also saw an emotional tribute to the victims and families of the 1 October Las Vegas atrocity. Nevada Congresswoman Dina Titus thanked NBAA for being the first city-wide convention to take place after the shootings. “Thank you for being here for us,” she said.
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