After more than a year of speculation, the chairman of the powerful House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has formally announced his intention to separate air traffic control services from the FAA. In a speech to the Washington Aero Club Monday, Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Penn), chairman of the committee, said he wants to create a federally chartered non-profit corporation funded by user fees. That's like the system in Canada, where NavCanada has been running the airspace for 15 years. Like NavCanada, the new company would have a board of directors made up of industry representatives and the key element would be the funding structure. Political interference would essentially be eliminated by a corporate structure responsible for its own revenue and Shuster said user fees will be the method to raise it.
It's only been about five years since the main aviation groups were united in a fight against user fees but that campaign has dwindled. AOPA, whose leadership went to Ottawa a year ago to learn about NavCanada's operation, says it still opposes user fees and wants to make sure GA is protected under any changes to the system. “We appreciate Chairman Shuster’s efforts to bring needed reforms to the current FAA structure and we look forward to continuing to work with him and the committee. Although we have yet to see details of the proposed legislation, AOPA believes the current method of collecting revenues through a tax on aviation fuel is not broken,” said AOPA Senior Vice President for Government Affairs Jim Coon, reiterating AOPA’s longstanding opposition to user fees for general aviation. “Moreover, we believe any air traffic system must preserve GA access to airports and airspace on a first-come, first-served basis, like we enjoy today.” Shuster said he expects the initiative to come to a vote in July.