Update from the CAF President - June 9, 2017
Today I received this letter from U.S. Congressman and CAF Colonel Sam Graves. Congressman Graves has always led the charge for General Aviation and Warbirds in Congress and again he is working hard to protect the freedom to fly, that we enjoy. Here at Commemorative Air Force Headquarters, we are monitoring the situation and weighing in where necessary on this important issue and we will let you know if and when is the best time to let your voice be heard. Right now, I encourage you to stay tuned and educated on the situation - and the letter below is the latest update.
As you may have seen this week, the President and his Administration weighed in directly on the ongoing effort to remove Air Traffic Control operations from the FAA as part of a week long roll-out of various infrastructure proposals. This proposal lacked support in Congress last year but now has renewed energy given President Trump’s endorsement of the concept.
Specifically, on Monday the President released ‘principles’ that reflect his Administration’s priorities for removing air traffic control from government. As a follow up, the DOT Secretary also testified this week in the House and Senate and tried to answer questions about the Administration’s proposal. The most concerning part was the call for user fees on all segments of the aviation community including GA. As we have shown in the past, user fees on GA won’t fly in Congress.
Further, the President proposed a board that gave airlines 2 seats, controllers 2 seats, GA 1 seat, Airports 1 seat, government 2 seats, and then four non-industry seats that will be picked by the initial 8 board members. A key difference is these groups of industry stakeholders would not be directly appointing the board members but rather would submit a list of 6-10 candidates to the DOT Secretary who would then choose the most qualified candidates. So, for example, the airlines would submit 10 names and the Secretary would choose 2 from their list. GA would do the same except the Secretary would only choose 1 from their list of 10.
While those recommendations are very concerning, I will say the Administration did address some concerns that I’ve raised about last year’s House bill. Specifically, it went into detail on how access, both to rural areas as well as ATC services for all users, needed to be protected. Additionally, the proposal recommended the AIP program be fully supported by the trust fund by aviation taxes while all other programs remaining with FAA would be funded separately by Congress. These two areas are key concerns that I have raised since the beginning of this debate over whether to remove air traffic control from government and I hope to see that translate into actual policy in the House bill. However, the two most important issues still remain the board and the fees the board can levy on GA.
I have been hearing from many in the GA community asking what this proposal means in terms of the likelihood of removing ATC from government this year. Whether its infrastructure, tax reform, or the budget, the Administration will always put forward a vision for what they want to see. But in Congress the real decisions are made as to whether those ideas have merit or more importantly broad support.
In this case, many of the same dynamics still remain. While GA has great concern and has voiced that publicly, two key constituencies in Congress have made clear they have their own concerns that will prevent the proposal from moving forward without dramatic changes. Those groups are the Appropriators and the Ways and Means (tax committee) members who have strong concerns about the loss of Congressional oversight. They make up 54 members of the 237 Republican members in the House which is more than enough to prevent the bill moving forward.
So, again the President’s proposal likely won’t have legs in Congress and this is step 1 of a 10 step process. We’ve got a deadline of September 30th and with the crowded agenda in Congress it will be very difficult to move something that doesn’t have broad support before then. As always, you can count on me to work hard on behalf of GA and all of aviation by engaging in the debate to ensure that any proposal that moves forward takes our concerns and priorities into account.
Hope to see you all in Tarkio very soon!
Letter from the CAF President - June 5, 2017
The White House announced this afternoon a plan calling to transfer managing the United States air traffic control (ATC) system to a non-profit corporation. President Trump made the announcement as part of a week-long effort to showcase and promote a larger infrastructure initiative.
The General Aviation community has serious concerns that this new governance would likely involve increasing user fees for all aircraft operators. An increase in user fees will negatively impact all of GA, especially organization like us. This afternoon, a letter voicing concerns about this plan was sent to the White House. This letter (click here to download) was signed by the Commemorative Air Force, AOPA, GAMA, ICAS, EAA, NBAA and many other organizations. We are united in agreement that this proposal is a serious and immediate threat to general aviation in this country.
I encourage each of you to learn more about this issue and make your position clear to your elected officials in the House and Senate. The CAF will continue to follow and stay actively involved in what is best for our organization and our members.
We will continue to keep you informed of the issue and will follow up with any additional information or actions you can take to help.