Pres. Trump Proposes Privatizing Air Traffic Control

Judith Bessette
Junho 19, 2017

Many airlines and the Air Traffic Controllers support the change, since government shutdowns during the previous administration caused Air Traffic Controllers to experience significant losses in pay and hours.

"It was fascinating to go up there and see the differences", Katko said of the Ottawa air traffic control operations.

Critics have pointed out safety concerns of turning over something as important as airways to a private company, as well as fears of turning air traffic control into a monopoly.

The White House plan will make its way to Congress, where it faces an uncertain fate.

The White House's focus on air traffic control is likely a combination of convenience and comfort level.

Nationwide, there are about 50,000 airline and other aircraft flights a day. "The idea that we would take the safest system in the world and the most complicated, and suddenly privatize it, that's insane", he said.

The idea of privatizing air-traffic control has been floated since the 1990s - Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush at times supported the concept - without success. When Rep. Bill Shuster (R, Pa.) put forth a plan to accomplish this in 2016, it stalled on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.

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Major airlines and the controller's union say the lack of progress is a result of government shutdowns, controller furloughs and dependence on government funding.

Under Trump's proposal, a board made up of airline, union and airport officials would oversee the nonprofit entity that would assume oversight after a three-year transition.

Airlines have been lobbying vigorously for the change, saying the FAA's NextGen program to modernize the air traffic system is taking too long and has produced too few benefits.

In a report last month, the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service found no strong evidence that privatization is better than the Federal Aviation Administration's existing air traffic control system. It also would switch the technology used to a GPS-based system rather than the current land-based radar system, making it more precise, said chief economic adviser Gary Cohn.

The plan will need to get through Congress for approval.

As he pushed for the changes, Trump was flanked by three former USA transportation secretaries who served under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush: Elizabeth Dole, James Burnley and Mary Peters. The corporation would also require user fees, which would be more hard for the general aviation community (i.e., private pilots) plus the smaller airlines and airports to cope with.

A separate, non-profit entity would run the air traffic control system that would also switch from taxing passengers to instead imposing a user fee system, saving passengers time and money, according to the White House.

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