Trump outlines plan to privatize air traffic control

Xavier Trudeau
Juin 6, 2017

Legislation already exists to accomplish nearly exactly what Trump wants, as Congress has previously debated the matter at length.

President Donald Trump outlined a plan on Monday to privatize the US air traffic control system to modernize it and lower flying costs, but his proposal drew immediate criticism from Democrats who said it would hand control of a key asset to special interests and big airlines. Executives from those companies joined the president at the White House to announce the plan.

It's an approach that has always been championed by USA airlines. He referenced the "outdated" system while touting new reforms that would make it safer and more reliable.

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. Nelson on Monday called it "a risk and liability we can't afford to take", and Moran, who serves on the Senate Commerce Committee, offered even stronger words.

Trump will push for the separation of air traffic control operations from the Federal Aviation Administration, embracing an approach long championed by US airlines, according to White House officials.

"All but our largest airports nationwide stand to be hurt by this proposal".

Many major airlines have campaigned for years to privatize FAA, spending $16 million in 2016 alone on lobbying Congress and federal agencies. Chao will again address the issue before the House Transportation Committee on Thursday.

Shuster previous year tried to pass an FAA privatization bill, but it was stymied by opposition and other controversies, including the disclosure that Shuster was dating a top lobbyist for the airlines.

Supporters stood little chance of passing a privatization bill when Barack Obama was president. "And we're going to top them, actually, by a long shot".

The air traffic control announcement Monday is the start of a "infrastructure week" planned by the Trump administration. That would save time for passengers, and reduce costs and fuel consumption for airlines, which in turn could lower the price of oil. "Our plan will get you where you need to go more quickly, more reliably, more affordably, and yes, for the first time in a long time, on time", Trump said. Huerta acknowledged, however, that government procurement requirements have slowed the NextGen rollout.

These comments were surprising given the fact that the American system handles orders of magnitude more traffic than any other in the world at efficiency and safety levels and costs per operation that are second to none. The governing board would assume all of the FAA's assets pertaining to air traffic control, a transfer of tens of billions of dollars.

The proposal is also created to shrink government and reduce taxes, said DJ Gribbin, a special assistant to the president who gave a briefing on the plan Monday morning.

The group Flyers' Rights calls it the "creation of an airline controlled corporate monopoly".

U.S. Rep. Ron Estes, a Republican from Kansas, also raised concerns Monday, stating that the privatization plan could hurt Wichita and aviation industries in his 4th congressional district. Trump has repeatedly promised to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure to improve airports, highways and other forms public works, though details of those plans have yet to be revealed.

On Wednesday, Trump will travel to Cincinnati to talk about improvements to the 12,000 miles (19,300 km) of inland waterways, dams, locks and ports critical for shipping farm products.

In an attempt to gain support for a plan that fell short in Congress past year, the White House said the 13-member board of directors for the new corporation should be made up of appointees from industry stakeholder groups.

David Woodard, a GOP consultant and Clemson University pollster, said that some of Trump's base may be concerned by his FAA proposal but will likely be pleased he is still "shaking up the tree". "Honestly, they didn't know what the hell they were doing", Trump said.

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