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Congressman Drew Ferguson: 21st Century AIRR Act Myth vs. Fact

WASHINGTON – The 21st Century AIRR Act passed out of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee a few weeks ago. The Congressman wanted to dispel a few myths and answer some questions he has received on the legislation since the vote.

Myth: Privatizing air traffic control (ATC) operations will privatize our nation’s air space and turn over the airspace to the airlines.

Fact: Our air space will remain under the federal authority of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

- The new ATC servicer provider will not determine airspace access, and it will not own the airspace. All aviation stakeholders, including general aviation, will have the same access to air space they have always enjoyed (Chapter 90701, p. 114)

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Myth: This bill will impose new user fees on the General Aviation (GA) community.

Fact: The 21st Century AIRR Act prohibits the new ATC service provider from imposing charges and fees for air traffic services on GA operations.

- The bill prohibits the new ATC service provider from charging user fees to any segment of GA. An act of Congress would be required to amend the statute to charge GA user fees. (Sec. 90313, p. 83)
- GA will continue to support the aviation system as it always has: through fuel taxes. (Sec. 803, p. 421)
- The board’s fee structure is subject to Secretarial review and approval, as well as a public comment period. (Chapter 90313, p. 81)

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Myth: The bill will harm the general aviation (GA) community and rural airports.

Fact: The 21st Century AIRR Act contains numerous and specific protections to ensure equal airspace access for the GA community.

- Prevents restriction of airspace or airport access for GA users (Chapter 907, p. 114)
- Guarantees the GA community a voice in the new system by including two GA seats on the Board of Directors (Sec. 90306, p. 64)
- Ensures input from small communities by providing a small community seat on the ATC service provider’s Advisory Board (Sec. 90310, p. 76)
- Requires FAA review and approval of any proposal that would modify air traffic service in a way that might restrict airspace access (Sec. 90705, p.116)
- Provides increased funding levels for the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) to ensure continued investments in small, rural, and general aviation airports. (Sec. 101, p. 7)
- Strengthens the Federal Contract Tower Program, which provides ATC services to many small and rural communities. (Sec. 134, p. 26)

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Myth: Privatizing the ATC system will result in a lack of oversight.

Fact: Just as now, the FAA, Department of Transportation and Congress will maintain oversight and regulation of the new ATC service provider. (Chapter 905, p. 100; Chapter 915, p. 153)

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Myth: Our national security will be negatively impacted by this legislation.

Fact: This legislation will not threaten national security or impede the operations of the DOD.

- The new entity will continue to provide services for U.S. government flight activities without a user fee. (Sec.90313(d)(6), p. 83; Sec.90902, p.121)
- The President maintains the authority to temporarily transfer the ATC service to the Secretary of Defense’s jurisdiction in times of war. (Sec. 90906, p. 122; Sec. 225, p. 163)
- Provides the Department of Defense with a seat on the Advisory Board of the Corporation. (Sec.90310, p. 76)

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Myth: This will be another Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

Fact: Unlike the CFPB, the ATC service provider will have no regulatory authority.

- The new ATC provider will be completely independent of government and receive no backing from government (Sec. 90304, p. 59; chapter 915).
- Instead, it will function as a private business, providing a service for and being regulated by the federal government.

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Myth: The U.S. has a much larger, more complex, and more diverse airspace than any other country that has transitioned from government to private ATC control, so the experiences of other countries cannot be applied to the U.S. system.

Fact: The size of America’s airspace is a reason, not an excuse, to implement this much-needed reform.

- The U.S. air traffic system already exists to scale with more than 500 facilities, more than 14,000 controllers, approximately 6,000 technicians, and over 2,400 managers.
- What’s more, the larger scale of the U.S. system could lead to even greater efficiencies and savings.

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Congressman Ferguson represents Georgia's 3rd District and serves on the Committee on the Budget, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and Education and the Workforce Committee and is the Freshman Policy Representative for the 115th Congress.

Click here to go to Representative Ferguson's website.

Submitted 7.29.17
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