Joined by Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, Vice President Pence, a group of former transportation secretaries, and a host of airline executives, the president said the new system would help the US catch up with the technological advances of other countries like Canada.
Trump’s privatization proposal is “a exhausted Republican plan that both sides of the aisle have rejected” and would “hand control of one of our nation’s most important public assets to special interests and the big airlines”, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.
“The system will be much more quick to respond – be able to buy new equipment and not be tied up with appropriations from Congress to keep it running”, said aviation expert Mark Weinkrantz. The Trump administration also said that the new system would be safer, arguing that separating air traffic control and the FAA would allow for better oversight.
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. Ted Cruz and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, airline industry executives, union members and others to the event in the East Room. “However, the specifics matter greatly, so it’s encouraging to see the president voice his support for privatization when it comes to air traffic control”. Trump’s budget plan released earlier this year called for the changes, placing air traffic operations under an “independent, non-governmental organization”.
About 50,000 flights take off and land in the United States every day.
Both sides of the debate have concerns. “This new entity will not need taxpayer money”, Trump said.
“We will continue to work with the administration and members of Congress including the General Aviation Caucus to ensure that safety, access, cost, and the freedom to fly are protected and addressed”, Baker said.
It is unclear if privatization would speed the rollout of new systems such as satellite-based aircraft tracking that replaces ground radar dating back to World War II. Data Comm is operational at 55 air traffic control towers around the country, supplementing voice communication between controllers and pilots with digital text-based messages created to make for safer, more efficient operations, as it helps aircraft take off and reach their destinations on time. NavCanada can raise private capital, make long-term financial commitments, and it recently lowered the fees it charges airlines.
Union officials have complained that the FAA has been unable to resolve chronic controller understaffing at some of the nation’s busiest facilities and pointed to the modernization effort’s slow progress.
Legislation already exists to accomplish nearly exactly what Trump wants, as Congress has previously debated the matter at length. The current plan has received the backing of most major airlines and some consumer advocates – meanwhile opponents include many Democrats and some Republicans, according to Reuters.
The president also noted that the old plan was designed at a time when only a 1,000 people flew each year.