President Trump lays out controversial plan to privatize air traffic control system

Posted June 07, 2017

Air travelers could be in for a bumpy ride thanks to President Trump's plans to overhaul the country's air-traffic control system.

President Donald Trump's plan to to shift responsibility for the air traffic control system from the government to a private, nonprofit corporation run by airlines and other aviation interests has received mixed reaction from locals in aviation.

Almost all interests agree the nation's air traffic control system is safe but antiquated, relying on radar while other nations long ago started using GPS.

The major domestic carriers all support the privatization plan, with the notable exception of Delta Air Lines.

Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., chairman of the House Transportation Committee, embraced the concept of privatization past year and fought to win the approval of such a bill in his committee.

The National Air Traffic Controllers' union has opposed any for-profit model, but in the past supported a federally chartered not-for-profit corporation model. "In addition, we do have the safest system in the world, and the FAA has been on a vigorous modernization program for the last several years".

Many people deem the air traffic control system as one of the safest in the world, but criticism is emerging over efficiency and technology. "Handing air traffic control over to a private entity partly governed by the airlines is both a risk and liability we can't afford to take". Mr Trump's budget proposal said the change would take effect in 2021 and estimated the reform would increase the budget deficit by about $45bn (£35bn) over 10 years.

Trump's claim on Monday that his FAA plan will "maintain support for rural communities and small airports" was immediately disputed by the Alliance for Aviation Across America, a group that represents small airports and other groups.

Shuster received $148,499 in airline industry campaign contributions a year ago, making him the industry's top recipient in the House, according to the political money tracking site Opensecrets.org.

"We're really moving into the modern decade of technology in air traffic control".

Trump's plan to privatize air traffic control operations will likely be included in legislation reauthorizing the FAA. That proposal failed to gain traction in Congress, similar to previous attempts to privatize air traffic controllers.

President Trump said this morning that he would push for privatization of Air Traffic Control, taking the almost 30,000 employees from under the authorization of the FAA in what is referred to as his "Air Traffic Control Reform Initiative".

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has already criticized the president, saying Trump's new infrastructure plan would leave the average American behind.

"If it's done well, it can improve things, but it may be some of the behind the scenes things that the passengers don't see", Mahoney says. "You can not assign safety to a private organization".

The idea to privatize air traffic control is not new, according to sources in the aviation industry.

Creating the impression of a bill signing, Trump was surrounded by the lawmakers after his remarks as he signed a decision memo and a letter to Congress outlining his principles for the air traffic control plan.

In addition to fears that the system would drive up the cost of air travel, Democrats argue that the change is both unnecessary and the advanced technologies may be too much for carriers to handle, especially in light of computer glitches experienced by major USA airlines.