U.S. Open To New Ideas on ATC Privatization, Foxx Says

AIN Air Transport Perspective » March 3, 2014
U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx
"We should keep our ears and minds open to new and different ways of doing things," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. (Photo: Department of Transportation)
February 25, 2014, 5:05 PM

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said the government is open to ideas on privatizing the nation’s ATC system, as long as aviation industry “stakeholders” agree on making that transformation. Foxx remarked on privatization after delivering the keynote speech at an Aero Club of Washington luncheon on February 25, his first major address to an aviation audience.

The Federal Aviation Administration provides ATC services in the U.S., relying on aviation user taxes and congressional appropriations to fund its operations. Increasingly in recent years, critics have called for restructuring the agency and spinning off its ATC responsibilities to an independent entity, comparable to Nav Canada or UK NATS, that would charge for its services and not rely on government subsidies. In December, Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, called for “bold ideas” to improve the U.S. aviation system. He suggested that the FAA may not be able to accomplish the ambitious NextGen ATC modernization in its present form.

Asked to share his view on privatization, Foxx said: “I’ve heard from a variety of stakeholders and so I know there’s a lot of frustration that the political underpinning for our aviation system may be frayed and folks are looking for some alternatives. My feeling is that we should engage with all of the stakeholders and keep our ears and minds open to new and different ways of doing things. But we’re also going to want the stakeholder community to be as united as possible on what the outcome is, so that means labor, it means the carriers…it means manufacturers. Everybody is going to have to engage on the questions because there’s a graveyard of administrations that have tried to make game-changing moves here.”

The former mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina, became Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary last July, succeeding Ray LaHood. While he has moved forcibly to regulate and possibly ban the use of cellphones on airliners in the U.S., aviation industry insiders have questioned his commitment to the industry during his short tenure. A speech that Foxx gave to the Transportation Research Board chairman’s luncheon in January was “disappointing,” according to the JDA Journal blog, published by aviation consulting firm JDA Aviation Technology Solutions of Bethesda, Maryland. “This seminal speech of the Secretary before TRB sends a subtle, but clear message that aviation is not on his radar screen,” the blog states.

During his speech to the Aero Club, Foxx attested that he is committed to aviation. “Over the last several weeks, you’ve heard me talking a lot about the Highway Trust Fund, which is on track to bounce checks as soon as August,” he said. “You’ve probably read in the paper that the DOT is focused on a surface transportation bill, and we are. But that doesn’t mean that we have forgotten about funding for aviation; in fact, quite the contrary…We’re still facing an infrastructure deficit in this country, and it’s particularly true when it comes to aviation. The FAA is still operating at historically low funding levels.”

Foxx added that “there is no project in aviation with the potential to improve efficiency more than NextGen, and many airlines are already starting to see the benefits.” He described the FAA’s program to revise wake turbulence separation standards at Memphis International Airport, which has helped cargo carrier FedEx Express save $1.8 million a month on fuel. The FAA is making similar improvements at other major airports, resulting in cost and time savings. “But I’m not here to ‘spike the football’ on NextGen,” he said. “There’s a lot of work that still needs to be done. We have to continue working to develop tangible outcomes that we can measure in the short term, the medium term and the long term.”

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matt
on February 25, 2014 - 6:04pm

Before we change how aviation and ATC is funded in this country, remember how the changes came with healthcare, and what a mess that has become. If more funds are needed for the FAA increase the taxes now in use. Creating another bureaucracy to administer user fees is just wasting more money that could be used for ATC improvements under the current funding system.

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Cyclone-Aviator
on February 26, 2014 - 8:02pm

It never ceases to amaze me how the bureaucrats in DC keep trying to find a way, front-door back-door, to  force user fees on us. This is nothing more than a way to attempt that very result. The really scary thing is, that given the lawlessness of this administration, that they may attempt to unilaterally impose this without Congress's approval.

AMSi's picture
AMSi
on April 15, 2014 - 2:46pm

Take a good look at the Nav Canada privatization, since 1995.  It is very well accepted by all stakeholders and did not create a government bureaucratic nightmare simply because it is out of Government and into the direct hands of the users which are not only satisfied with the results but also participate directly in the decision making through the 15 members board of direction.

The change-over was very smoothly done and even the numerous aviation related trade unions involved found it a win win situation.

It also made a lot of sense that the regulator (Ministry of Transport) who was alos the operator, reverted back to its regulator role.

check this out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nav_Canada#Corporate_governance

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