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June 9, 2017 // National Spotlight Put on Air Traffic Control Reform

This was an eventful week for NATCA and the professions of our members employed by the Federal Aviation Administration.

At a large White House event on Monday, June 5, the President announced his proposal to move the air traffic control system to a not-for-profit, non-governmental corporation. NATCA will continue to protect the rights and benefits of the workforce as part of all discussions on this topic; the employees who would move to a new entity and those who would remain with the FAA, if any proposed legislation became law.

Here’s a look at this week’s news, how NATCA responded, and what comes next:

PRESIDENTIAL PROPOSAL: On Monday, the President signed a letter to Congress that outlines the broad parameters of his plan. He did not sign a formal proposal nor any detailed legislative language. Rather, it was simply a policy statement. Based on the President’s public statements and the policy document itself, the White House’s ATC reform proposal is similar to H.R. 4441, the Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization Act of 2016 (AIRR Act), which was the ATC reform proposal championed by House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster. NATCA supported the AIRR Act last year because it met our Union’s Four Core Principles for Reform.

NATCA’s FOUR CORE PRINCIPLES FOR REFORM:

  • Protect the rights and benefits of the workforce;
  • Ensure that safety and efficiency remain the top priorities;
  • Provide a stable, predictable funding stream that adequately supports air traffic control services, staffing, hiring and training, long-term modernization, preventative maintenance, and ongoing modernization of the physical infrastructure; and
  • Maintain service to all segments of our nation’s diverse aviation community.

NATCA’s PUBLIC RESPONSE TO THE PRESIDENT’S PROPOSAL: NATCA shares the Administration’s commitments to infrastructure modernization and providing the National Airspace System (NAS) with a stable, predictable funding stream. We look forward to reviewing the specifics of the air traffic control (ATC) reform legislation so we can evaluate whether it satisfies our Union’s principles, including protecting the rights and benefits of the ATC workforce. NATCA considers the status quo to be unacceptable and will oppose any ATC reform proposal that would institute a for-profit model.

NATCA’S FULL RESPONSE, AS DETAILED IN A JUNE 6 MESSAGE TO THE MEMBERSHIP FROM THE NATIONAL EXECUTIVE BOARD: Please read the full message here.

MEDIA OUTREACH: NATCA issued a proactive media statement about the President’s proposal that was widely picked-up by many of the television, radio, print, and web news sources that covered this announcement. We also corrected incorrect statements and responded to questions from many dozens of congressional offices and media representatives. Read the statement.

SOME SELECTED EXAMPLES OF HOW OUR STATEMENT, OUR POSITION, AND SOME OF OUR INTERVIEWS HAVE BEEN CONVEYED IN THE MEDIA THIS WEEK:

  • NBC NEWS: Controllers are cautious about handing the skies to a private company and ensuring rural America is still served. “We need to ensure that we don’t disrupt the system, that we don’t break anything as we’re trying to fix it,” said Patricia Gilbert (NATCA Executive Vice President).
  • THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: “The union representing some 10,500 (fully certified) controllers, stung by a staffing crisis due in part to erratic FAA appropriations, said it shares the administration’s commitment to modernization and will review the legislation to see whether it protects its members.”
  • THE WASHINGTON POST (June 6): “That National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) backed Shuster’s plan, saying the corporation would ensure more stable funding than Congress could provide. Paul Rinaldi, president of NATCA, said his union would “evaluate whether [the Trump plan] satisfies our union’s principles, including protecting the rights and benefits of the ATC workforce.”
  • THE WASHINGTON POST (June 7): “National Air Traffic Controllers Association President Paul Rinaldi said through collaboration with the aviation industry, FAA is on or ahead of schedule with some of the most critical NextGen programs, such as developing a system to automate communication between controllers and pilots to increase efficiency. ‘It’s important to point out that since 2009, we have focused on working together to modernize the system while simultaneously maintaining the safety and efficiency of the world’s busiest, most complex, most diverse, and safest airspace. This is no simple task,’ Rinaldi said.”
  • BLOOMBERG: “The National Air Traffic Controllers Association, which represents 20,000 U.S. air traffic controllers and related employees, has been agitating for more predictable FAA funding for years. The union says any ATC change must protect employee rights and benefits; keep safety and efficiency as top priorities; provide a stable funding stream; and maintain service to all aviation segments. The union supported the 2016 bill. “We look forward to reviewing the specifics of the air traffic control (ATC) reform legislation so we can evaluate whether it satisfies our union’s principles, including protecting the rights and benefits of the ATC workforce,” union President Paul Rinaldi said Monday in a statement.”
  • FEDERAL SOUP: “The National Air Traffic Controllers Association released a statement of optimism, not showing full support of the move, but open to change. ‘NATCA considers the status quo to be unacceptable,’ the organization said in the statement, adding that it will oppose any ATC reform proposal that would institute a for-profit model. NATCA previously supported a federally chartered not-for-profit corporation model, as proposed in the Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization (AIRR) Act of 2016.”
  • AVIATION INTERNATIONAL NEWS: “One of the most notable reactions from yesterday’s detailed look at a reform proposal came from the controllers’ union, which had offered support to such a proposal when first unveiled last year. While the National Air Traffic Controllers Association still offered support for reform, it was more cautious about embracing the Trump proposal, saying it first needed to review the details to ensure it met its goals.”
  • AVWEB: NATCA was quick to respond to the Trump proposal, with a statement from their president, Paul Rinaldi. NATCA said it will study the legislation in detail before commenting. The union has long been supportive of a not-for-profit model for ATC that would provide a stable, predictable funding stream that adequately supports air traffic control services, and that would maintain service to all segments of aviation.


WHAT’S NEXT? The President delivered this proposal to Congress, which already has a very busy agenda. Reform legislation will need to pass both the House and the Senate before the President can sign it into law. As we reported to the membership on June 2, much can change during this legislative process, and no one can predict when it might get a Congressional vote or what any final legislation may look like. No matter what occurs during this process, NATCA will continue to fight to protect the National Airspace System (NAS) and the men and women who safeguard it.

RANKING MEMBER DEFAZIO INTRODUCES “AVIATION FUNDING STABILITY ACT”: On Wednesday, June 7, House Transportation and Infrastructure Ranking Member Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., introduced H.R. 2800, the Aviation Funding Stability Act. Members: To read NATCA’s position on H.R. 2800, please view it here.

REFERRING INQUIRIES TO NATCA NATIONAL OFFICE: Many of you have been contacted by members of the media and some congressional offices. We ask that you please continue to forward any such contacts to the National Office. For media inquiries, please forward to Director of Communications Doug Church (dchurch@natcadc.org). For legislative inquiries, please forward to Director of Government Affairs Jose Ceballos (jceballos@natcadc.org).

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ABOUT NATCA’S POSITION ON ATC FUNDING AND POSSIBLE REFORM: On May 17, Paul Rinaldi, at a hearing before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee about FAA and air traffic control reform, promised to fight for labor protections in any legislation, outlined why we must have a stable, predictable funding stream, and made clear that “we do not believe there is only one solution to the problems.”