Bill Shuster is at it again: trying to ramrod the massive giveaway of the U.S. ATC system to private interests, dominated by the four remaining major airlines (American, Delta, Southwest, and United). Today’s dog-and pony show includes Paul Rinaldi, president of the controllers’ union NATCA. Why would NATCA want privatization? Primarily for selfish money reasons. ATC has a mandatory retirement age of 56, and the lifting of this age-limit will greatly enhance the already quite substantial retirement pensions for those like Rinaldi who are imminently eligible to retire. The new ‘ATC Inc.’ would also have plenty of freedom to payback Rinaldi and other retiring controllers, who will be able to supplement fat federal pensions (those will be sustained, after all) with very rich consulting work. And where will all the money come from to do this? You, and me. Air travelers will still pay large fees and taxes, which will be collected as if they are a federal tax, but will be spent by a private entity, controlled by the airlines.
FAA and their Av-Gov Complex partners will call this ‘collaboration’; rational people will shake their heads and say, No, this is crony capitalism. On steroids.”
Here is a link to the livestream, which supposedly can also be used to watch the video later, starting at 10AM EDT: https://youtu.be/h6XTbApeO-M
Click on the image below for a scrollable view; the PDF file may be downloaded.
The House Subcommittee on Aviation, chaired by U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), will hold a hearing next week to review the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) air traffic controller hiring, staffing, and training plans and related issues. Here is a portion of the press release, including times and a list of the four witnesses:
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, under Chair Bill Shuster, has been pushing hard to privatize ATC. Although most controllers are opposed, the NATCA leadership has been offering testimony and news stories that are aimed at getting Congressional approval of ATC privatization. One of the witnesses is Paul Rinaldi, head of NATCA, who has been pressing an absurd point, claiming ATC is using archaic technologies including ‘paper strips’. Another witness, Randy Babbitt, was forced to resign from his position as FAA Administrator when he failed to report an alcohol/driving charge after a Christmas party in 2011; after his abrupt resignation, he was quickly hired by Southwest Airlines.
Below are scrollable PDF files listing the committee members. These may be helpful for identifying speakers during the proceedings. They also can be used to study how powerful Congressional committees are structured, and how severely gerrymandered their districts tend to be (to ensure their reelection).
Click on either of the two images below for a scrollable view; red shows republican members (R) PDF file, blue shows democrat members (D) PDF file.
Aviation Subcommittee members are marked with a blue box around their name. Click on the PDF links to download either list.
UPDATE, 6/15/2016 at 12:23 EDT: — The hearing ended at 12:19. Random notes are viewable on page 2 of this Post. Additional updates will follow.
(a sampling of headlines/articles generated today in a Google Alert on the word ‘FAA’)
The ridiculous scheme to privatize the U.S. ATC system appears to have died a quick death, but give Bill Shuster, Nick Calio, and Paul Rinaldi credit for putting a lot of effort into it.
The legislative proposal was introduced with great fanfare on February 3rd – even a slick video, loaded with spin (not sure who paid for that production!?!, though it looks like an A4A production). The rollout was after years of work and hundreds of meetings with so-called ‘stakeholders’, to craft the precise language that best served their interests. A fatal error was that the ‘stakeholders’ did not include airport neighbors, airline customers, environmental representatives or ANYONEin the general public. As has become routine in recent years, the ‘stakeholders’ set was limited to parties that stood to personally gain from scheme implementation: the airlines, the airline lobbyists, the air traffic controllers lobbyist (i.e., the union NATCA), and potential ATC contractors.
The need for Transformational Reform of FAA/ATC remains. Let’s hope our Congressional leaders get to work pass REALlegislation, including:
restoration of local authority, including the power of local residents to vote democratically on airport activity limits, so as to ensure local citizens lead in the management of airport impacts, and to ensure the airport serves the local community first, industry last.
a complete reconfiguration of the aviation fee & tax structure, so as to:
disincentivize overdevelopment of airline hubs (to encourage wider distribution of moderate traffic levels, and to avoid saturated repetitive flight patterns);
minimize fossil fuel consumption;
maximize percentage of passenger trips that proceed from origin to destination, without layovers.
maximize transparency by both airlines and FAA/ATC, to include required annual data reports, so citizens can see quantified progress toward efficiency and environment system goals.
a thorough correction of aviation noise metrics and rules, to include:
remove authority from FAA and place it clearly within an EPA noise office;
upgrade the false ’65 dNL’ metric with a more realistic ’55 dNL’ metric, and also establish rules based on other non-dNL noise metrics.
FAA’s arrogance in ignoring NextGen noise impacts is legendary, but that arrogance is amazingly exceeded by Bill Shuster, Chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. And, it is all a glaring conflict of interest.
On Day One, Mister Shuster is waterboy for lobbyist Airlines for America (A4A), pushing a poisoned legislative proposal that would grant the airlines control of ATC via a so-called ‘not-for-profit privatization’ scheme; on Day Two, Mr. Schuster is ‘on the beach and tipping cocktails’, hanging in Florida with his best buddies: lobbyist A4A CEO Nick Calio, and A4A VP of Government Affairs Shelley Rubino. Oh, and the A4A Government Affairs VP also happens to be ‘engaged’ in a personal relationship with Mr. Shuster.
Click on the image below for a scrollable view; the PDF file may be downloaded.
The rollout of the Shuster/A4A legislative proposal included clearly coordinated support by all the intended beneficiaries: representatives Shuster & LoBiondo, lobby Airlines for America, and even the controllers union, NATCA (though the vast majority of controllers quickly rose up, charging their elected leaders with selling out the future … and other FAA employee unions were quick to distance themselves from NATCA’s Executive Board decision). But, there was strong opposition even at the rollout. Even before the big shows – the Hearing on 2/10/2016, and the Markup on 2/11/2016 – the Republican committee members voiced a clear opposition to the proposed ATC privatization. The legislative proposal was rolled out on February 3rd, but an article by Jazz Shaw at HotAir.com provided a copy of a leaked memo showing five substantial points why the House Freedom Caucus opposes this FAA restructuring plan:
The AIRR Act is Not Conservative
Creates a New Special-interest Bureaucracy
Diminishes Congressional Oversight
A High Cost to Taxpayers and a Sweet Deal for Unions
Bear in mind, Shuster wanted to introduce this legislation a full year ago, but was forced to delay and retool, due to the growing FAA NextGen debacles. So, in total, the Shuster/A4A proposal is seeing opposition from everyone EXCEPTthe cronies who stand to reap the core of the intended special interest gain: i.e., the only consistent support comes from industry (A4A and the airlines), the NATCA NEB members (all of whom are near retirement), and the Congress-critters who earn campaign contributions by advocating for this bad idea.
At time 9:21:58 of the nearly ten-hour Markup, just prior to the quick series of final votes, Representative DeFazio offered this comment: “…(the amendments) are generally – how would you describe them – tweaks to the imaginary ATC corporation (laughter) … they would make it better, if it happened (more laughter)….”.
In other words, the Shuster/A4A proposal distills down to just one big joke – a waste of our time and money.
2/23/2016 – ‘FAA reform bill raises concern from Queens leaders’
2/22/2016 – ‘The FAA restructuring bill already looks like it’s on life support’
The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is holding an AIRR Act hearing at this moment, chaired by Bill Shuster. Two hours in, the witnesses include Ed Bolen, Robert Poole, Paul Rinaldi and Nick Calio, all of whom (except Bolen) are strong advocates of this corporate giveaway. Shuster has unfortunately set such small time allotments that the representatives and witnesses simply cannot get into sufficient depth to clearly debate the issues and arrive at solid solutions. Nonetheless, lots of concerns and opposition are being strongly declared.