• Saturday, October 21, 2017 1:53 PM | Deleted user

    On Monday, Oct. 23rd at 0700 local time the airport will commence the Rehabilitation of Tower Road project. This project will involve construction personnel using excavation equipment and vehicles. Please use extreme caution when traveling on Tower Road and expect the road to be open at all times with Flagman coordinating traffic during all construction activities. 

    For more information, click here for the full bulletin. 

  • Tuesday, September 26, 2017 3:44 PM | Deleted user

    On September 25th, Congressman Peter DeFazio wrote the following letter warning the public about being misled on the causes of flight delays and urging them to oppose H.R. 2997.

    Click here to view the full letter

  • Tuesday, September 26, 2017 1:15 PM | Deleted user

    Next year, there will be a significant  construction work project that will essentially shut down the airport for different extended periods.  This is something to keep an eye on and WAA will make sure to let everyone know more as the details become clear. 

    Click here for the powerpoint discussing the variety of phases that will take place. 

  • Thursday, September 21, 2017 3:01 PM | Deleted user

    Pilots planning to fly in the northern and central New Jersey area

    The Trump national golf course in Bedminster New Jersey has been designated an official presidential residence. When the president is in residence a presidential temporary flight restriction is in effect covering a region 30 miles around the golf course. 

    The TFR may be activated with less than 24 hours notice and covers most of the northern and central New Jersey airspace affecting 19 airports in New Jersey and Pennsylvania violating the TFR route but will result in you being intercepted by military aircraft before flying please check for any TSRs a note of us by calling flight service at one 800 WX brief check in for TFR is before any flight is a good idea. 

    Note: There have already been more than 20 intercepts of GA pilots by Coast Guard helicopters and Air Force fighter jets for violating the TFR. 

  • Tuesday, September 19, 2017 2:48 PM | Deleted user

    Last night, the WAA hosted a meeting with approximately 30 pilots, airport operations, FAA personnel and controllers to maintain open the lines of communication at the airport. The conversation was flowing for topics ranging from runway incursions and safety, control instructions in the pattern, IFR routings and the changing nature of TFRs in the area.  Leading the meeting were WAA Board Member Scott Dyer, Mike Wold (HPN Air Traffic Manger), Vladimir Vallejo (Air Traffic Controller) and Ben Struck (FAA Safety Program Manger, FRG FSDO). 

    Although not scheduled yet, please watch the website for the next quarterly meeting date. 

    Below are highlights taken from the meeting to recap some significant information:

    ·   HPN tower continues to have many trainees among its staff.   

    • There are daily and sometimes more frequent changes to the TFRs in effect over and near HPN.  Pilots are urged to get the latest information immediately before flight commences.  The current UN General Assembly related TFR includes a cut out for HPN; other Presidential TFRs do not....don't assume there is a cut out for your departure from or arrival at HPN.  Often (but not always) having a VFR flight plan on file for the operation, but not activated, is sufficient, provided that you obtain any necessary transponder code BEFORE leaving the ground or arriving within the lateral boundaries of the TFR.  Often (but not always) having an IFR flight plan on file but not activated IS NOT sufficient, it must be active at the time of the operation within the TFR.  The expectation is that later in the Fall the VIP trips to Bedminster will diminish in number.
    • IFR routings for light general aviation aircraft leaving HPN, that would usually be routed over SAX and along V249 to the Southwest (e.g., routings to Trenton, Philadelphia, Lancaster, BWI, Dulles, etc.) are changed when the Bedminster TFR is in effect.  In that event, aircraft are being routed over JFK V16 DIXIE.  Routings thereafter may be along V276 RBV (for Trenton/Philadelphia area) or V1 CYN V16, or V1 LEEAH , depending on destinations.  Plan for different/sometimes longer routings when the Bedminster TFR is in effect. 
    • The Runway Safety Action Team ("RSAT") meeting, which is held annually, was held at our September meeting.  Traffic operations at HPN continue to grow at the rate of about 5% per year, with Calendar Year 2016 seeing 165,356 total airport operations; 169,448 Tower Operations (including overflights); 48,694 VFR itinerants (i.e., non-closed traffic); and 14,548 touch and goes.  These numbers are not including aircraft operations when the tower is closed.
      • There were 2 runway incursions since the last RSAT meeting in May 2016.  One involved a Cirrus SR22 that crossed runway 16 without a clearance.  The other involved a Cessna 421 that did not hold short of runway 11 at C taxiway
      • There were 29 events in which jet or turboprop aircraft were issued a go-around due to preceding traffic not having cleared the runway in timely fashion, at the rate of approximately 2 per month.  It is important for landing aircraft to clear the runway expeditiously, consistent with safety
      • Other runway issues involved flat tires resulting in the aircraft needing to be cleared from the runway, and aircraft excursions on the grass off runways
      • Tower suggests the following best practices for pilots:
    -Focus on readbacks to ensure proper understanding of ATC instructions/clearances.
    -Readback all runway hold short instructions, including the runway number.
    - Study the airport layout prior to arriving or taxiing.
    -Ask for clarifications if unsure of the clearance/instruction
    -See the whole picture, have good situational awareness of what is going on around your aircraft and the route that you will be taking.
    -Be alert to the locations of the FBO's with multiple locations:  Signature/Ross East/West.  Know which direction you'll be turning off the runway.
    • The Tower suggests the following best practices for its controllers:

    - Minimize the number of runway crossings when issuing taxi clearances
    - Issue taxi instructions slowly
    - Seek to have ATC be involved in the planning for airport construction projects
    -Coordinate with the airport operator for familiarization trips in airport vehicles
    - Use of tower cab simulator
    -Invite/encourage users to visit the Tower and interact with ATC personnel

    As always, the Tower at KHPN welcomes visitors.  Visitors must have a passport and be a US Citizen.  Call Mike Wold at 914-948-6520 if you would like to schedule a visit.  Because of the cramped quarters, limit the group to about 5

  • Tuesday, July 25, 2017 1:16 PM | Deleted user

    Good Afternoon,

    Please be advised that effective immediately, HPN’s TSA approved escorting numbers are:

    One (1) escort per five (5) individuals


    One (1) escort per five (5) vehicles at any time.

    Please ensure that all escorted personal are equipped with SIDA/AOA Visitor badge and all vehicles have a Class II permit.  There must be face-to-face transfer between escorts and no break in contact.

    Please share this information with your employees and tenants and feel free to call me with any questions.

    Best Regards,

    Laura Etre
    Airport Security Manager
    AvPORTS / Westchester County Airport
    240 Airport Road  Suite 202 / White Plains, NY 10604
    P: 914.995.2748 /Email: lega@westchestergov.com

  • Monday, July 03, 2017 2:24 PM | Deleted user

    On June 19th, the WAA hosted the Second Annual Safety Standdown for business and general aviation professionals. This year's theme was "The Future of Aviation Safety" and nationally renowned speakers addressed over 225 attendees at the Doral Arrowwood. A corporate operator focused day session garnered employees from various companies throughout the Northeast region who were able to interact with real time survey questions throughout the presentations utilizing the program Poll Everywhere.  All attendees also qualified for one NBAA Certified Aviation Manager (CAM) credit for attending.

    Morning speakers included NTSB Board member John Beatty, CEO of the Flight Safety Foundation; John Goglia, former NTSB board member; and Aaron Greenwald and Josh Olds, Unmanned Safety Institute.  Also, two panel discussions took place focusing on the future of aviation safety training and fatigue. Panelists included Dann Runik, Flight Safety Intl; Eli Cotti, NBAA; and Sheryl Barden, Aviation Personnel Intl. Furthermore, employees of WAA member companies also participated: Kelly Barfield, Tom Stewart, & Chris Duffek of JP Morgan Chase; Chris Keaney of IBM; Matt Mason of American Express, and Jim Wolley of PMI.

    Along with networking opportunities between various disciplines in an aviation department, attendees also joined in breakout sessions throughout the afternoon specifically tailored to their specialty. Sal Lagonia, WAA board member and owner of Lagonia Law, instructed pilots on how to navigate any situation when the FAA is calling. Food expert, John Detloff trained flight attendants on global food safety. Constant Aviation’s Kent Stauffer delivered a thought provoking discussion on human factors playing into the maintenance role. Finally, Dean Snell and John Kosak of NBAA addressed dispatchers and schedulers on working with the NY ATC and presented helpful weather resources.

    Furthermore, the evening session focused on the general aviation constituency of KHPN. With 60 attendees, members of the Westchester Flying Club, Civil Air Patrol, and other groups listened to the aforementioned Greenwald, Olds, and Kosak. Additionally joining in the presentations was WAA board member, Scott Dyer; Mike Wold, HPN Tower Chief; and Vladimir Vallejo, Front Line Manager of the HPN  Tower.  As one of the top GA events the WAA has hosted, WINGS - Pilot Proficiency credit was offered for all attendees. On hand was Ben Struck of the FAA, to further explain that the objective of the WINGS Program is to address the primary accident causal factors that continue to plague the general aviation community and delivered a short presentation on the “Human Startle Response and Managing Unexpected Events.”

    WAA Chairman Milt Hobbs commented, "We are proud to continue to bring this type of event to our membership and see it grow so much in just one year. I think it displays our unwavering support and commitment to aviation safety at Westchester County airport and our NE region. We hope all who attended were able to walk away learning something new, networking with a neighbor, and thinking differently about what safety means currently in their world and in the future."

    Additional information, pictures, and attendee comments will be posted shortly on the WAA website and social media outlets. The WAA would like to thank all of our volunteers and attendees who made this year's event so successful.

  • Wednesday, May 10, 2017 7:58 AM | Deleted user

    Last night, the WAA hosted a meeting with approximately 20 pilots, dispatchers and controllers to maintain open the lines of communication at the airport. The conversation was flowing for two hours on topics ranging from procedures and projects at HPN to severe weather avoidance plans and alternative routings.  Leading the meeting wer WAA Board Member Scott Dyer, Mike Wold (HPN Air Traffic Manger), Devon Browne (HPN Front Line Supervisor), Jon Norris (NY Tracon), Brian Seavey (NY Tracon) and Ben Struck (FAA Safety Program Manger, FRG FSDO). 

    Although not scheduled yet, please watch the website for quarterly meeting dates. 

    Below are highlights taken from the meeting to recap some significant information:

    • HPN tower has had two of its controllers in training become certified recently, with more in process.   
    • Controller staff shortages continue to limits the availability of "line up and wait" as a procedure to expedite the flow of departing traffic (extra staffing is required when line up and wait is used).
    • The next major airport project will be a resurfacing of 16/34, which will occur in the fall of 2018 and require that the runway be closed for an expected 3 days. 
    • A directive from the FAA has now removed the terminology of "Climb Via" from clearances for IFR departure procedures that do not include altitude crossing restrictions on the procedure but have only a Top Altitude.  Thus, "Climb Via" terminology will no longer be used in clearances for the Westchester Five SID. 
    • Runway 29 is now available for landings between sunset and sunrise, but aircraft of more than 12, 500 pounds are restricted from landing on Runway 29 at any time. Another NOTAM indicates that the approach ratio for Runway 29 has been raised, due to the trees on the ridge on short final. 
    • The recent presidential TFRs were discussed.  The TFR centered on Bedminster, NJ, when active, removes the availability of BIGGY, LANNA and PARKE for departures from the HPN, with alternative routings to be given.  Arrival routings from the south and southwest can expect IFR alternative routings over Allentown (FJC) when the TFR over Bedminster is active, and note the V249 routing between SBJ and SAX will not be available in that event (affecting southwest-bound piston arrivals and departures from HPN).  The Hudson River Special Flight Rules Area ("SFRA") was expressly excluded from the Bedminster TFR, although the language was not clear if the Skyline Route (between 1300' and 2000' in the Class B airspace over the Hudson) was excluded as well as it does not lie within the SFRA.  Ben Struck said he would check to clarify the status of the Skyline Route during such TFRs.  Note that the NJ-based TFR changes when the President moves through Morristown Airport (MMU), so be sure to check current TFR status immediately before departures. There is no available information about the possibility of any upcoming presidential trips to homes and businesses in Westchester County. 
    • Severe Weather Avoidance Plans ("SWAP") have been put into effect several times already this season.  ATC is aware that non-airline operators may be willing and able to take departure clearances that involve many more flying miles than the airlines accept, in order to expedite their departures.  Such operators should make that willingness known to Clearance Delivery on initial contact as CD needs to check each routing with Tracon counterparts during SWAP operations and the acceptability of non-standard routings can be conveyed at that time.    SERMN routings (Severe weather Escape Routes Metro New york) can be used as well, either on an elective or mandatory basis, when usual departure fixes are not available.  SERMN routes are useful for departures to DCA, RDU, ORF and as far south as SAV, as well as BOS and New England destinations, BUF, PIT, etc.  SERMN routes require that the aircraft remain at low altitude (8,000' or 10,000' maximums, depending on the destination) for the entirety of the route--don't expect to negotiate higher.  The routings are very similar, if not identical to the low-altitude victor-airway preferred routes usually given to piston singles departing from HPN.

    As always, the Tower at KHPN welcomes visitors.  Visitors must have a passport and be a US Citizen.  Call Mike Wold at 914-948-6520 if you would like to schedule a visit.  Because of the cramped quarters, limit the group to about 5

    Finally, the Tower folks love to be asked to go along on local flights for familiarization

  • Monday, April 24, 2017 2:41 PM | Deleted user

    On April 12, board members of the Westchester Aviation Association (WAA) traveled to Washington DC to meet with officials of the Federal Aviation Association (FAA) to discuss the recently proposed plan to privatize the operation of Westchester County Airport. WAA Chairman Milt Hobbs, along with board members Sal Lagonia and Eric Faulkner were joined by Alex Gertsen (NBAA’s Director of Airports and Ground Infrastructure) and Dean Saucier (NBAA’s Northeast Regional Representative). Collectively, they voiced concern over the lack of general aviation’s participation in the privatization plan for the airport and community involvement in the process.

    The meeting was led by Kevin Willis, the FAA’s Director of Airport Compliance and Management Analysis, and included several members of the FAA and DOT staff. Mr. Willis began by giving an excellent briefing on the FAA’s Airport Privatization Pilot Program, which included origins of the program development, its purpose and history, and concluded with the specifics of the HPN program. The FAA Airport Privatization Pilot Program was developed as a tool to help distressed airports expand, improve infrastructure and attract financing. The notable downside is that the surrounding community does lose some control over the future of its local airport.

    What Is the Airport Privatization Pilot Program About?

    Since 1996, 10 slots were provided in the program, of which 7  are not utilized. Westchester County Airport along with St. Louis Lambert International Airport (STL) and Hendry County Airport (2IS) are in various stages of implementation of the program. The only active airport is San Juan Luis Muñoz Marín Airport (SJU) in Puerto Rico - generally considered a success because the airport was greatly distressed and had a high amount of debt, which prevented much needed improvements. However, other efforts to utilize this program have failed due to either economic reasons or lack of political will to move through to completion. Mr. Willis further explained that there were no plans to expand the number of slots for the program

    Details Regarding HPN

    After providing a framework of the program, Mr. Willis reviewed the details of the program’s implementation at HPN. Currently, HPN has filed an initial application with the FAA and the County has issued an investor RFP to prospective operators. RFP submissions and a decision on which operator or investment group to retain is expected by late July 2017. The Westchester Board of Legislators is required to approve the selection with expected meetings on this matter to occur sometime in September.

    According to Mr. Willis, after Westchester Board of Legislators approval, the process takes approximately a year to complete. This process includes the FAA acting on information provided by the County and the selected operator. Both the County and the selected operator must (among other things) meet 9 statutory conditions to gain approval by the FAA. The completion timeline of this will depend on how long it takes to receive the requested information. At a later point in the process, the FAA will hold public hearings to receive and gauge public opinion from the community. However, by historical data, the expected completion of the process would occur no earlier than late summer/early fall 2018.

    What to Expect Moving Forward

    With awareness that 78% of the traffic and revenue is derived from general aviation at HPN, the FAA assured our WAA representatives that they are very focused on the needs and impact to the general aviation community. Mr. Willis graciously offered to stay in touch and meet again at any time helpful to the WAA.

    After the meeting with the FAA, the WAA board members traveled to NBAA headquarters and received a further briefing on the subject from NBAA’s outside legal counsel to gain additional knowledge on the subject and possible alternatives.

    The WAA Board of Directors will continue to stay hyper vigilant on this issue with the goal of protecting the interests of all users and stakeholders at HPN. The WAA is committed to not only advocating on our members behalf, but also delivering the timely updates and news on this issue and others affecting Westchester County Airport. Please remember that the more constituents we represent, the more our voice and declarations will be listened to and acted upon. If you are a member of the WAA, we thank you for your continued support and want you to know that this is the exact type of issue your membership dollars are working to guard against. If you are not currently a member of the WAA, please consider joining today. As you can see, we are dedicated to our mission of providing a strong voice for general aviation at HPN and to sustain a thriving airport community, both now and in the future.

  • Wednesday, March 15, 2017 5:16 PM | Deleted user

    Fellow WAA Member,

    The ATC Privatization issue will be back on the front burner over the next few weeks. If the airlines are successful in their attempt to take over control of the ATC system for their benefit, the impact to our membership would be swift and severe. Essentially, this effort is trying to take a monopoly (the air traffic control system of the US) and give it (for free) to a corporate board controlled by the airlines. This may look like an issue for just large business aviation interests but make sure to understand it will have a severe impact to all of us in general aviation. Take a look at the lack of general aviation in the UK to see where the story ends.

    I would be happy to discuss further with any of you but would ask that you become an educated consumer of this issue and to pay close attention to this issue in Washington. The WAA will continue to keep the membership informed on this issue as well as the more local issue here at KHPN.

    Safe flying,


    Business & Commercial Aviation

    ATC Privatization — Pro & Con

    Will the airlines take control of ATC in the U.S.?

    Jan 25, 2017David Esler Business & Commercial Aviation

    Ed Bolen believes that total control of the ATC system is the force majeure behind the airlines’ long-held wish to create and dominate an air traffic control corporation supported by user fees.

    “For several decades now, some of the big airlines have tried to seize control of the ATC system and the revenues that fund it,” the NBAA president and CEO told BCA. “We believe that they want to use that control for their exclusive benefit.”

    Rex Wholster/iStockPhoto

    This compulsion to control the infrastructure of the National Airspace System (NAS) came into the public eye as far back as 1997 during testimony in a U.S. House of Representatives Transportation Committee hearing. When the major airlines claim ATC privatization is “modernization,” the CEO of a struggling startup carrier said then to think “economic domination,” because the airlines want to run the ATC system for their exclusive benefit.

    Twenty years later Bolen, recalled that surprisingly candid admission: “We are very concerned that they would use that control to increase their access to airports and airspace and decrease ours,” he said. “This will impact small towns and rural communities that depend on business and general aviation for access to the marketplace.”

    Efforts to rend the air traffic control function from the FAA seem to track with those who hold that anything which cannot be provided exclusively by the government belongs in the private sector. There exist many examples of Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs) operating in the private sector across the globe.

    Previous attempts to float ATC privatization as riders to FAA reauthorization bills have failed — as have user fee proposals — primarily due to the effectiveness of lobbying efforts by general aviation advocacy groups and supporters in Congress. But as the debate ramps up toward the Sept. 30, 2017, expiration of the current FAA operational authorization amid a new political climate tilted in favor of unrestrained free market economics and smaller government, the fate of an FAA-operated NAS appears ever-more doubtful. It would seem that the separation of air traffic — and who will pay for it — has become red meat for congressional budget battles.

    Main Course

    Meanwhile, 2016 was a nexus for studying the structure and funding of U.S. ATC. During the year past, reports from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) highlighting the pros and cons of ATC privatization joined audits and studies commissioned by members of Congress.

    Among the issues raised were cost overruns and schedule drift in the NextGen ATC infrastructure modernization plan. As of last fall, the FAA had spent $7.4 billion on NextGen since the program’s implementation in 2004 and yet claims it needs an additional $14.8 billion to complete the six-phase system modernization — that’s a $2.6 billion increase from the agency’s last estimate in 2012. Further, completion has slipped from 2020 to an undetermined date in the 2030s. (See “Business Aviation and PBN” [BCA, December 2016, page 51] for a discussion of the FAA’s latest strategy for completing NextGen.) Then, too, questions have arisen about the reliability of the ADS-B system and lagging operator equipage numbers.

    Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising. NextGen is essentially a huge public works project, and those often fail to track to promised schedules or budgets. And, too, political partisanship, sequestration and government shutdowns have had their deleterious effects on the ATC modernization program, pushing progress deadlines ahead and wasting money.

    So in the midst of all this interest in whether or not to privatize ATC, in February 2016, Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) and Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.), House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman and Aviation Subcommittee chairman, respectively, co-introduced H.R. 4441, the “Aviation Innovation, Reform and Reauthorization Act.” A six-year FAA reauthorization bill, it called for the creation of a nonprofit, self-financed, non-share air traffic control and modernization corporation modeled after Nav Canada. Ultimately, H.R. 4441 was blocked from reaching the House floor for vote, but it is generally accepted as a template for ATC reform that meets the conservative litmus test. Expect it to reemerge in some form in 2017.

    The federally chartered ATC corporation H.R. 4441 proposed would be governed by a board “representing the aviation system’s users and the public interest.” As a possible prototype for a U.S. privatized system, it is revealing to look at Nav Canada’s governing board, which is composed of four directors representing the nation’s airlines; one director representing business and general aviation, elected through the Canadian Business Aviation Association; three directors representing the Canadian government; two directors elected by employee unions; and four independent directors elected by the overall board. The Nav Canada board hires a president/CEO to manage the corporation, and that person then also serves on the board.

    H.R. 4441 was to preserve the FAA’s regulatory and enforcement functions under the federal umbrella but would have, among other reforms, “streamlined” the agency’s aircraft and equipment certification process. The ATC corporation was to be set up on debt financing (Nav Canada was required to purchase all of the country’s ATC infrastructure as a stipulation of its charter) and operated on user fees. But most significantly, the Shuster/LoBiondo legislation would have, in one fell swoop, removed 30,000 civil service employees from the federal payroll, contributing significantly to conservatives’ goals of reducing the size of government and the federal deficit.

    But considering its service to the public, much like a public utility, should ATC be removed from federal control at all? Should such a service provider be tossed to the vicissitudes of the free market where it could be exposed to labor actions, economic downturns, bankruptcies and such? How do you guarantee continued service during bad times no matter what? These and other questions frame the privatization debate.

    “The public airspace should be operated in the public’s best interest,” Bolen insists. “So we think the best way to ensure that is to have final authority resting with the public’s representatives, not special-interest groups. Our concern is that we could turn the system over to this combination of special interest groups dominated by the airlines.”

    Citing what he characterized as “the world’s largest and best system of airports, the best ATC system,” Bolen maintains that the challenge to the U.S. “is how to continuously improve and enhance our air traffic system and still ensure it operates for the public’s best interest. So, we’ve been offering targeted solutions to immediate problems whereas the airlines are saying, ‘Just turn everything over to us, and trust that it will be OK.’”

    Airline Angst

    The most powerful advocate for ATC privatization is Airlines for America, or A4A, the principal lobbying group for commercial aviation in the U.S. since 1936. Formerly called the Air Transport Association of America, its nine members and their affiliate carriers account for 90% of U.S. passenger and cargo traffic. At a National Press Club event last fall, A4A announced its intention to fully support ATC privatization during the current reauthorization debate.

    A4A’s current airline membership roster includes Alaska, American, Atlas Air, FedEx, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Southwest, United and UPS, with Air Canada as an associate member. Notably absent is Delta Airlines, which as of 2013 was the U.S.’s largest carrier by passenger count; it left A4A in October 2015.

    “In recent years, Delta and the trade group had not been aligned on several key issues, including the growing harm of government-subsidized carriers in the Middle East and the effects of the Export-Import Bank on U.S. airlines,” Delta spokeswoman Elizabeth Wolf explained to BCA.

    “A4A also has advocated for the nation’s air traffic control to be separated from the FAA and put into a private organization — a move long opposed by Delta,” Wolf continued. “The main reason is essentially that we haven’t seen compelling data to show that spinning off ATC would result in any improvements or efficiencies in the system, and we are concerned that the transition would be a distraction that could slow down progress on NextGen implementation.”

    So, do the airlines united in A4A really want to control ATC and, thus, access to the NAS? “This is a red herring,” an exasperated Sharon Pinkerton exclaimed. She is senior vice president, legislative and regulatory policy, at A4A. “The rhetoric doesn’t match any reality,” Pinkerton continued. “If we did want to take control of the system, we wouldn’t have supported Shuster’s proposal.”

    According to Pinkerton, A4A believes “the real issues with business aviation are around funding, but we really don’t understand their [the NBAA’s] strident opposition. When you look at the rest of the world, their concerns are misplaced, as there is no evidence that reformed systems limit access.”

    Instead, Pinkerton maintains, it is the status quo that limits access, “that and policymakers who want to come in and try the latest ideas. I think the status quo is the biggest threat to business aviation in that we’re not making progress in increasing capacity in the system and the way it’s funded. The opportunities for improvement are legion.”

    But Bolen maintains that privatized ANSPs have exposed inherent flaws. “We have seen it in various parts of the world and seen a lot of problems with it,” he said. “For example, in Australia, commercial flights have priority, so we have heard from our members about sitting on tarmacs for up to 5 hr. waiting for departure clearances. In the U.K., their system went bankrupt and [its management] had to turn to the government for a payout.”

    Bill Deere, executive vice president at the National Air Transportation Association (NATA), noted that proponents of “corporatizing” air traffic control often hold up the number of such ATC systems around the world as “proof” that privatization is the better solution. However, “if one looks at those countries, the systems and investment are significantly smaller than those of the U.S. system, and in some places corporatization has allowed only for the creation of minimal levels of surveillance where none had previously existed,” he said. “In the case of Canada, Nav Canada was created to address a budgetary crisis in the Canadian government.

    “A 2015 DOT Inspector General report clearly demonstrates these international air traffic control systems are much smaller and less complex than our own,” Deere continued. “Also reported by the IG, these air traffic control providers, unlike the FAA, ‘do not embark on large, comprehensive modernization efforts such as NextGen transformational programs or conduct extensive aviation research and development.’ Instead, as the report notes, these air traffic providers, including Nav Canada, rely on small, incremental changes using off-the-shelf technology.”

    A4A: FAA’s ATC Is Inefficient

    The airline industry’s argument for privatization is built primarily around increasing capacity and efficiency in the system, and the lagging NextGen program especially sticks in its craw.

    “We support privatization because of the lack of progress of the nation’s biggest infrastructure project, NextGen,” said A4A’s Pinkerton. “And while it may look fine, the fact is that the FAA has released a report that shows that the inefficiencies of the current system cost the economy — mostly passengers, in terms of lost time — $30 billion a year due to unnecessary delays in the system.”

    This could be addressed with quicker progress completing NextGen, A4A believes. “An airline flight between DCA [Reagan Washington National Airport] and any New York airport used to be scheduled for under an hour and now takes anywhere from 15 to 20 min. longer, with a total segment time of 180 min. 20 years later,” Pinkerton noted. “In an age where we supposedly have better technology and faster planes, the ATC system is not keeping pace. The impact on passengers of delays in the system is the number one problem.”

    Closely tied to ATC modernization is the funding of the system, which Pinkerton maintains is “completely broken. We have an annual appropriations process that starts with the Office of Management and Budget setting the budget based on FAA proposals. That process is driven by other built-in constraints that have nothing to do with running ATC, everything from concerns about the federal deficit to coming up with the federal budget. Part of what we’re advocating for is an independent system that is not dependent on the federal government for contributions and one in which you can do planning in a long-term manner — NextGen should be planned according to a five-, 10- and 20-year outlook.”

    So the essence of the A4A campaign is “governance and funding reform,” Pinkerton explained. “On the governance side, we are advocating for an independent nonprofit organization. Some people call it a co-op, as the board of directors is made up of aviation stakeholders including the government, labor and general aviation community. There are different examples of this across the world. In Germany there is an independent government corporation. And there’s Canada’s model, which we like and which has worked very well — and could work for the U.S. The funding model in the rest of the world is basically user fees.”

    There is nothing inherently governmental about ATC and the provision of its services, Pinkerton maintains. “Government shutdowns have nothing to do with ATC either. The idea is to remove ATC from politics and the budget process. In 2013, we had a partial shutdown of ATC with controllers furloughed, not a shortage of funding, as we had $5 billion in the Aviation Trust Fund. At the end of last year, we had $7 billion. Despite having a surplus in the Aviation Trust Fund, we are still subject to an annual appropriation process, which isn’t good for the system, the controllers, NextGen or the traveling public. Or, I will venture, good for business aviation, either.”

    Another criticism of the present government-operated system is that sporadic funding has drawn out the NextGen schedule to the point where newer technologies like satellite-based ADS-B are leapfrogging those to which the U.S. program is already committed, such as ground-based ADS-B.

    By a two-to-one majority Americans are opposed to privatizing ATC, Bolen claims, based on a 2015 poll. “There are conservative and consumer groups, a lot of people who have expressed concern or opposition to this idea,” he said.

    NATA: Privatization Doesn’t ‘Fit’ Here

    The NATA’s Deere says his organization disagrees with A4A’s privatization push “because it doesn’t fit the American system. It discourages investment and erodes general aviation’s access to airspace and airports. No country has what we have: a highly complex national system that serves all entities. As a country, we make it a policy that there is national access to highways and broadband, and that also applies to the National Airspace System and airports.”

    The NATA also believes that privatization puts that system at risk. “If you’re going to run ATC as a business,” Deere said, “it injects risk into the national system. If you’re going to run it as a business, you will not invest equally in all areas. But in the government-operated system, we’ve made it national policy to invest everywhere, even in rural America.”

    Deere said the NATA supports making the FAA a more efficient operation, but its FAR Part 135 members balk at committing to a reformed ATC when its funding structure is so-far unknown. “What will be the cost to operators?” he asked. “Last February, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee floated a proposal singling out FAR Part 135 as the only entity that would pay user fees, while other general aviation entities, like Part 91 business aviation operations, would continue to pay the gas tax. Now, while we don’t know what the navigation fees will be, we do know that one segment of GA was singled out to pay them.”

    An ATC corporation inserts “significant uncertainty” into the Part 135 community, Deere claimed. “Typical for many small businesses, the overwhelming majority of Part 135 operators have 25 or fewer employees and less than $5 million annual revenue.” In response to Shuster’s H.R. 4441 proposal last year, the NATA released this statement: “The Corporation’s proposed leadership structure provides major airlines the confidence they seek to control a future air traffic control system primarily for their benefit. Absent congressional oversight, this proposed construct risks unconstrained cost increases being passed along to other users of the system.”

    Are NATA members paying their way to use the current ATC system? “Yes,” Deere said. “Like other members of the aviation community, NATA members contribute to the Aviation Trust Fund through fuel and excise taxes. In fact, Aviation Trust Fund revenues comprise the overwhelming share of FAA spending, over 97% in fiscal year 2015 alone.”

    So, the question is not one of funding, Deere maintains, but rather whether the current budget process should be amended to ensure the revenues are being fully utilized for the intended purpose.

    “That does not require the A4A policy prescription, the establishment of a corporatized air traffic control system,” said Deere. “In fact, a recent GAO report requested by the NATA confirmed our long-held belief that not all aviation taxes are being deposited in the Aviation Trust Fund.”

    Too Big to Privatize?

    Defenders of a federally operated ATC system often claim that the U.S. system is just too large and complex to privatize. Bolen: “In the U.S., we have something unique — the size and magnitude of our ATC system is beyond compare, and we have a collection of airports that is among the largest in the world, too. And we are very concerned about trying to take the largest, most complex and safest ATC system in the world and modeling it after that of a country that may have a tenth of what we have. [An oblique reference to Canada.] Most ATC systems need to break even, so if there is a turndown, they have to raise their rates at a time when operators can least afford fee increases.”

    Too big to privatize? “Oh, that’s just not true,” Pinkerton at A4A exclaimed. “[The NAS is] divided up into smaller pieces of airspace — we are not talking about the delivery system but the structural tie to the government and the funding that will enable us getting out of the annual budget cycle [i.e., reauthorization]. It has nothing to do with how complex a TRACON is.”

    Could the privatized, Nav Canada-influenced model in H.R. 4441 work in the U.S., given the landmass, sheer size of the operation, and growing demand for all forms of air transport?

    “On the topic of privatized ATC in the U.S., I really could not say whether or not it would be a success,” Rudy Toering, president and CEO of the Canadian Business Aviation Association, told BCA. Taxation, rules and regulations, even how airports are run and financed in Canada are quite different from their counterparts in the U.S., Toering explained. “This all goes hand in hand with our privatized Nav Canada that has been extremely successful in Canada for the last 20 years. So in short, it works very well in Canada. Will it work the same way elsewhere? No one knows for sure.”

    In the meantime, the NATA’s Deere thinks we’ll see “some good old-fashioned lobbying” this year along with a vigorous debate about whether the country is willing to abandon nearly a century of government-provided ATC in favor of privatization. As this went to press, the Trump administration’s position on privatizing ATC was unknown. Shuster, however, told the Associated Press that he had discussed the subject with President Trump before and after the election and “he generally liked the idea. . . .”

    On the other hand, as Deere pointed out, we now have a president who has relied on business aircraft — both fixed- and rotary-wing — to help him succeed in business and, most recently, in politics. 

    Message to Business Aviation

    BCA asked airline lobbying group A4A’s Sharon Pinkerton if she had a message for business aviation regarding ATC privatization. Her response:

    “It is in business aviation’s interest to evaluate and understand that the status quo could be improved through reform and that, when you look around the world, there’s a better way of doing business.”

Westchester Aviation Association is a non-profit organization.

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