There is more at stake in the current Washington debate over privatizing the U.S. air traffic control system than who controls the nation’s airspace, said Ed Bolen in opening the National Business Aviation Assn.’s annual convention in Las Vegas Tuesday morning. The NBAA president/CEO acknowledged that control clearly is a huge part of the debate. U.S. airlines have spent years and hundreds of millions of dollars to convince Congress that the ATC system should be controlled by a private organization and funded largely through user fees, he noted. Their fight gained a potent advocate in 2011 when the major airline trade group, now called Airlines for America, tapped Nick Calio as its president and CEO. Before he served as a top executive of Citigroup, Calio was President George W. Bush’s principal liaison to Congress from 2001 to 2003. He also served in that post for President George H.W. Bush. But Bolen also explained that public ownership of the ATC and the consequent requirement to fund it through congressional procedures gives aviation groups leverage to improve how the FAA operates. With the process of periodically re-authorizing the FAA (or giving it legal authority to spend money), Bolen said, “we can get certification reform” and other changes at the aviation agency. In fact, the current round of certification reforms, including improving supplemental type certificate processes and monitoring how the FAA works with holders of organization designation authorizations, is a result of the 2012 FAA reauthorization called the FAA Modernization and Reform Act. The current re-authorization, a short-term measure adopted Sept. 30, expires March 31, 2016.