Bill Shuster, the chairman of the US House transportation committee, insists he is sticking with his proposal to spin off air traffic control in a October 3 speech before Congress delivered.
Congress just approved an FAA extension to fund the agency for six months, but our work is not done.
We have a responsibility to pass a long-term FAA bill that ensures America remains the world leader in aviation, promotes American manufacturing jobs, and improves air service for every American.
The status quo, which some special interests in Washington argue for, will not accomplish those goals.
The status quo means American aviation manufacturing will lose out to competitors in Europe, China, and Brazil. We will lose jobs.
It means the drone industry will continue to go overseas for testing and development. That’s more lost jobs.
The status quo means more delays and lost time for passengers.
That’s why it’s time to reform the FAA, and with my Republican and Democratic colleagues, I have introduced H.R. 2997, the 21st Century AIRR Act.
Like all major reforms, there have been false claims made against this bipartisan bill.
The first issue I want to address is General Aviation.
My colleagues and I, including Sam Graves, worked with the General Aviation community to include everything they asked for in this bill.
Not one of their legislative requests was excluded.
In fact, Congressman Graves now supports this bill because of how far we went to address the needs of the GA community.
We did so because General Aviation is vital to our unique aviation system, and I would never sponsor legislation that harms my own rural community.
Here is what the General Aviation community asked for:
They did not want to pay user fees to use air traffic control service. They won’t – It’s on page 83 of the bill. The only entity that will be able to change this is Congress – just like today.
They did not want any airspace restrictions. This bill prohibits airspace restrictions for GA – See page 114. In fact, GA doesn’t have that guarantee today. Our bill actually puts this guarantee into law, for the first time.
They wanted to fully fund the Airport Improvement Program. I want to fully fund AIP – in part – because it helps my district, and small & medium sized airports. AIP will be funded the same way as today, by the traveling public and GA. Currently AIP is flat-lined at $3.3 billion. Our bill increases that to $4 billion over the life of the bill. It’s on page 7.
GA wanted parity on the board. They got it with the ability to nominate two board members, on page 64. The balanced board will include airports, pilots, controllers, commercial passenger carriers, cargo carriers, regional carriers, General Aviation, and Business Aviation. Plus 2 seats nominated by the federal government. A super majority of those will choose 2 independent seats. The board will then choose a CEO.
Yet, even when faced with these facts in black and white text, opponents of reform still claim these guarantees aren’t in the bill.
Ask a member of the GA community, what we can do to get their support, and they’ll say “Nothing.”
Our bill guarantees GA access to the airspace, and no GA pilot or owner will pay a user fee. Nothing will change for them – the same process as today.
Unfortunately, a few Washington special interests who represent business jets oppose this common-sense reform.
Think about it this way – 850 million passengers will fly commercially this year – 1 billion in the next 10 years. This bill is real reform that will benefit them – at no cost or harm to business jet aviation. In fact, every person that flies commercially subsidizes the business jets using the air traffic control system.
But, instead of offering solutions or alternatives, these special interests are only spreading misinformation and scare tactics about the bill to keep the status quo.
A small number of GA plane owners are saying “no” to benefits for what will be 1 billion travelers.
Opponents of the bill have also tried to spread fears about how DoD will interact with an independent air traffic control service.
I am a senior member of the Armed Services Committee, and I would never support a bill that harms our Armed Forces’ ability to protect the nation.
Make no mistake – the 21st Century AIRR Act prioritizes America’s national defense.
Under our bill, the federal government retains exclusive sovereignty and control of the airspace, and upholds the president’s critical authority to assume control of the airspace in emergencies and time of war – See pages 122 and 163. We also plan to strengthen this section by amendment.
The bill continues the military’s critical use of the airspace to conduct training, respond to emergencies, and function on a day-to-day basis. Pages 57, 120, and 121 of the bill.
DoD will be a partner during and after the transition to an independent air traffic service – see page 122.
Secretary Mattis wrote that DoD supports air traffic control reform efforts, and Deputy Secretary Shanahan has been to the Hill to reiterate that support, and answer questions about how DoD will function under reform.
Finally, I want to cover the question about federal appropriations and oversight.
The bill clearly separates air traffic control service from the government.
The new corporation will not receive any federal appropriations or backing of the federal government.
To make this point crystal clear, we expect to adopt an amendment that will be even more explicit in prohibiting federal appropriations.
Furthermore, the federal government – Congress, DOT, and FAA – will have oversight of air traffic control – just like every other aspect of our aviation system, including airlines and manufacturers.
Only DOT and FAA will regulate the nation’s airspace and the aircraft that fly through it.
The new corporation will only provide a service – it will not regulate anything, and it cannot issue rules because it’s a private entity.
Nothing that I’ve said today is speculation. It reflects the carefully drafted text of the bill that the House will vote on in the coming days.
I encourage Members to read the bill, and come to us with any questions.
We simply can’t afford to continue the status quo. American leadership and American jobs are at stake.
This bipartisan bill has broad and diverse support. For example, Heritage Action and labor unions support it.
I urge my colleagues to seize this unique opportunity for reform, and support the bipartisan H.R. 2997.
I yield back the balance of my time.