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Industry groups weigh in on air traffic control privatization

Airlines for America said the Trump administration’s proposal to privatize the nation’s air traffic control system would result in shorter flights, fewer emissions and fewer delays, while the Alliance for Aviation Across America decried the measure.

   The Trump administration’s budget released earlier this week included a proposal to shift the air traffic control function of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to an independent, non-governmental organization in 2021.
   In response to the proposal, the Alliance for Aviation Across America (AAAA), a non-profit, non-partisan coalition, argued that under a privatized air traffic control system, industry and other stakeholders would be able to direct investments and resources, and set taxes and fees to benefit stakeholders’ bottom lines, rather than in a way that maximizes the public good. Consequently, this would threaten access to rural areas around the United States that depend on the nation’s public air transportation system, AAAA said.
   Under the budget proposal, privatizing air-traffic control would increase the deficit by $46 billion over the next decade. The administration acknowledged the $46 billion because of projected growth at the agency, but claimed that based on historical trends, the actual spending difference would be less, at around $20 billion over the 10-year time period.
   “Privatization of air traffic control has been opposed by local Mayors and elected officials, businesses, consumer groups, rural and agricultural organizations, and the majority of Americans – for good cause,” AAAA Executive Director Selena Shilad said. “This risky proposal would add to our national deficit, threaten access to small towns and rural communities, decimate small businesses with new, unnecessary user fees; and, give the big airlines even more power over our air transportation system at a time when they are actually in need of greater oversight.”
   Mayors from over 115 communities across all 50 states recently wrote to leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Senate Commerce Committee, outlining their concerns about any proposal that would privatize the nation’s air traffic control system.
   Meanwhile, Airlines for America (A4A), a trade organization for U.S. airlines, commended the proposal to privatize the nation’s air traffic control system, saying it would lead to shorter flights, lower emissions and fewer delays.
   “The President’s leadership on air traffic control reform will ultimately reduce federal spending, shrink the size of the federal government and reduce taxes for passengers,” A4A President and CEO Nicholas E. Calio said.
   Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has also been a strong supporter of privatizing the nation’s air traffic control system.
   Earlier this month, in an editorial for The Hill, Shuster said the modernization would provide a safe and more efficient aviation system, ensure more on-time departures, more direct routes and less wasted time on the tarmac.
   Over 60 countries have separated their air traffic control service from their regulator, and in Canada alone, the service costs are 30 percent lower now under its non-for-profit model compared to costs under the government 20 years ago, he said.
   “Our current air traffic control technology is a dinosaur compared to other countries’ systems,” wrote Shuster. “American air traffic controllers use WWII-era radar technology as the backbone of our system to manage the most congested airspace in the world.”

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