OPINION: Recent op-ed misrepresents positive impacts of air traffic control reforms

Steve Pierce

Barney Helmick’s recent op-ed misrepresents the important, positive impacts air traffic control reforms will have on northern Arizona’s aviation industry.

The bi-partisan reform package proposed by the president and Congress, known as the 21st Century AIRR Act, diversifies air traffic control oversight and moves the operations to a 13-member, nonprofit board. The board has one seat each for major and regional airlines, general and business aviation, and airports, thereby guaranteeing small and northern Arizona’s rural airport interests are equally represented. It in no way would hand air traffic control control over to a private board “dominated by the biggest airlines and airports,” but specifically increases funding for programs that support rural and regional airports.

The proposal allows the FAA to focus on what it does best – ensuring the world’s most complex air system is also the safest, while making operations more efficient for air travelers.

The AIRR Act protects Flagstaff Pulliam airport by increasing funding for the Airport Improvement Program and Federal Contract Tower Program, preserving all current contracts, maintaining air traffic control services and ensuring investment at northern Arizona airports.

Helmick neglects to inform readers that the opposition to air traffic control reforms is spearheaded by wealthy private jet owners who pay virtually nothing into the system, but get all the benefits.

Northern Arizona airports are critical to Arizona’s aviation industry. Modernizing our air traffic control system will only enhance emergency response, border security, disaster relief and economic benefits that Arizona’s aviation system provides, allowing more air traffic to fly safely throughout our state.

Steve Pierce

Editor’s note: Steve Pierce is a native Arizonan, rancher and former state senator who has spent his life advocating for northern Arizona and rural communities.

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