The timing is critical for the helicopter industry to help stave off major changes to the FAA that will impact your operations and bring additional costs for your operation. The House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee will vote on Thursday on a bill that could fundamentally change how U.S. airspace is governed and what kind of access you will continue to have. You need to email or telephone call to your elected representative in Washington immediately — before 9:00 a.m./ET Thursday — if the helicopter industry’s concerns are to be addressed.
HAI has submitted for the record a letter to T&I Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) and Ranking Member Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) outlining the association’s gravest concerns about the legislation.
The House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee held the first of two hearings on Wednesday, Feb. 10, on the bill (H.R. 4441) to split air traffic control away from the FAA to a private corporation. At 10:00 a.m./ET on Thursday, Feb.11, the committee will hold a mark-up session during which a number of amendments will be offered before the committee votes on the bill as amended. Shuster has this bill on the fast track and it could be headed to the floor for a vote by the full House of Representatives shortly after the President’s Day Recess.
While Shuster was emphatic that he had been negotiating for months to get this bill right, the general aviation (GA) industry certainly was not a part of those negotiations.
At times during Wednesday’s three-and-a-half hour hearing, Rep. Shuster was terse in his defense of his signature plan, telling fellow lawmakers “we can do this. Show the political will.”
However, the barrage of criticism came from both sides of the political aisle. Former committee chairman, Don Young (R-Alaska) focused his comments on the plan to divide up representation on the nonprofit board that would make ATC decisions. He said, “We’ve basically got four airlines now and if they are going to run this FAA, I don’t think the consumer is going to get the right representation on the board.”
HAI is extremely concerned about the makeup of the 11-member ATC board of directors, as is the rest of the GA industry. Under the legislation, the airlines would get four seats, the largest airline pilots’ union would get one seat, and the air traffic controllers union (which supports the legislation) would get one seat. GA would get two seats. Two more directors would be appointed by the Secretary of Transportation. The final seat would go to the CEO of this new organization, who would be selected by the board.
Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) accused Rep. Shuster of using expediency to ram through an unpopular idea that has not been properly vetted, and HAI President Matt Zuccaro says he could not agree more about the haste and lack of proper vetting of many of the provisions contained in Shuster’s bill.
Of interest to HAI members are two documents released by the Transportation Committee to support today’s hearing: aSummary of Subject Matter which outlines the ATC Reform Proposal and offers insight into how the corporation would be formed, and a GAO Report prepared at the request of Rep. DeFazio which offers preliminary observations of Potential Air Traffic Control Restructuring Issues.
All HAI members are strongly encouraged to weigh in with their elected representatives in Congress. For information on this particular issue that you may wish to include in your correspondence with your representative, please see Matt Zuccaro’s message to the helicopter industry on this issue.
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