Chao, Shuster Lead ATC Fact-Finding Mission to Canada

U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and House Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) headed an American delegation that visited Canada on March 30 and 31 to discuss that country’s air traffic control system. Nav Canada, a privatized air navigation service provider, is considered a model for an ATC system restructuring the Trump administration favors for the U.S.

In a statement provided to AIN, Transport Canada, the government regulatory agency that oversees the transportation sector, described the visit to Ottawa as a “fact-finding mission” by the U.S. delegation to gather information about Canada’s transfer of ATC system ownership and management to Nav Canada. The latter organization became owner and operator of air navigation services in Canada in 1996 when it purchased the system Transport Canada formerly operated for $1.5 billion.

Nav Canada is a non-share capital corporation governed by a 15-member board; it consists of four directors elected by the National Airlines Council of Canada, four independent directors elected by the board, three directors elected by the government, two directors by employee unions, one director by the Canadian Business Aviation Association and a CEO. Plans call for Nav Canada to acquire a controlling interest in the Aireon joint venture, which is deploying a worldwide aircraft tracking system hosted on new Iridium Next satellites.

The delegation was interested in learning more about Nav Canada, its operations pursuant to powers granted by the Civil Air Navigation Services Commercialization Act, and the transition process toward becoming a private, non-share capital corporation, working at arm’s length from the Government with the exclusive right in Canada to provide air navigation services,” Transport Canada said.

Canada was pleased to facilitate the meetings and to showcase its competencies in the operation of the civil air navigation system,” the statement added.

Last year, Shuster’s committee advanced legislation that would have created a new ATC entity in the U.S., separate of the Federal Aviation Administration. While the controversial proposal failed to win approval in the previous, 114th Congress, it received a boost in mid-March when the Trump administration released a federal budget blueprint calling for the creation of an “independent non-governmental organization” to manage the nation’s ATC system.

Shuster has pledged to reintroduce the so-called ATC reform proposal as part of the next FAA reauthorization bill; the current legislation expires on September 30. The House aviation subcommittee is currently holding a series of hearings as it develops the legislation.

The U.S. Department of Transportation did not issue a statement on the Canadian trip.