Three current members of Congress spoke at the 2016 NBAA Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (NBAA-BACE) this week in Orlando, FL, and all three emphasized business aviation’s essential role in America. They also declared their strong opposition to creating a private ATC system funded by user fees.
“We all know that our airspace is a unique national asset, and that the diversity of operations and users of that airspace is greater than any other country in the world,” said Rep. Bill Flores (R-17-TX), a member of the House General Aviation Caucus, at the NBAA-BACE Second Day General Session on Nov. 2. “There’s no reason to turn over control of that unique national asset to a board run by the airlines.”
A pilot himself, Flores owned and operated a Cessna Citation Mustang when he worked in the private sector, and later used it to travel his vast congressional district in East Texas. Flores said he and other members of the GA Caucus opposed the recent proposal to create a privatized ATC system in Congress and “we got those provisions pulled out of the [FAA funding extension] bill.”
Flores is also a champion of the Pilot’s Bill of Rights and co-sponsored reforms to third class medical requirements for pilots.
The co-chair of the House GA Caucus, Rep. Sam Graves (R-6-MO), took the stage the day before at the NBAA-BACE Opening General Session to congratulate the industry and policymakers for working together on issues affecting aviation.
“ATC privatization didn’t happen in this Congress, and I don’t see it coming up in the next FAA reauthorization,” said Graves in his fourth appearance at NBAA’s convention. “The rallying cries of general aviation have strengthened opposition in the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, the Appropriations Committee and the Way & Means Committee.”
However, Graves advised that “nothing is ever dead in Washington, DC, so we have to stay vigilant.”
A longtime pilot who hosts an annual aviation town hall and airshow in his hometown of Tarkio, MO, Graves said told attendees that “your government relations team at NBAA is always on the Hill, letting members of Congress know exactly what’s going on,” but he also stressed the importance of grassroots advocacy.
In fact, all three members of Congress who spoke at NBAA-BACE were pilots, and Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), also a repeat speaker, is a former astronaut.
On the floor of the Senate, Nelson has said, “air traffic control privatization is absolutely not going to happen. I’ve made myself very clear.”
Nelson received NBAA’s Meritorious Service to Aviation Award, the industry’s highest honor, for his lifelong support for aviation. He cited bipartisan cooperation as the key to recent successes in rejecting ATC privatization and user fees, as well as reforms increasing airport security and ensuring safety with unmanned aircraft systems.
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