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Will Privatizing Air Traffic Control Services Result In Modernization?

19 June 2017

President Donald Trump is speaking Monday about his plan to separate air traffic control from the Federal Aviation Administration and place it in the hands of a private, non-profit corporation, in an effort to cut costs and speed up innovation.

"We know that in many of these areas we're falling behind, and the falling behind is affecting economic growth in the United States, " Cohn said.

The proposal is being dismissed as one of Trump's eccentric obsessions, though Al Gore supported a version in the 1990s.

Trump made his remarks June 5 in a White House speech kicking off what has been described as "Infrastructure Week", a week when the president will propose numerous infrastructure programs.

The Federal Aviation Administration spends almost $10 billion a year on air traffic control funded largely through passenger user fees, and has about 28,000 air traffic control personnel.

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"The White House principles make a gross misrepresentation that the air traffic control system is broken, but the facts don't support the claim", said Jack J. Pelton, EAA CEO/Chairman.

The proposal outlined criteria that the new entity must meet to oversee USA air traffic control, including safety, national security, AND cybersecurity. If Congress approves the privatization plan, it is expected that the transition will take up to three years to complete, and 30,000 FAA employees will lose their jobs in the process.

Republicans haven't just hampered any progress on air traffic control, they've played a game of chicken with the safety of air travel, putting the flying public on the line. 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.

"Since the early days of commercial air service, the federal government has owned and operated the US air traffic control system; yet, more than a half a century later, the government is still using much of the same outdated technology", Trump said. Both sides of the privatization debate say the system is one of the most complex and safest in the world.

The plan will need to get through Congress for approval.

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There also are concerns that airlines would dominate the private-company board and limit access to airports by business jets.

USA airlines have been campaigning for decades to separate air traffic control operations from the FAA and have also argued that FAA efforts to modernize the air traffic system is taking too long and has produced too few benefits.

The radar system still in use has its roots in World War II technology, and parts of the communications system still use paper.

"The antiquated system we rely on today is inefficient and causes thousands of avoidable flight delays", Shannon Gilson, a spokeswoman for American, said in an emailed statement.

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Will Privatizing Air Traffic Control Services Result In Modernization?