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Trump backs plan to privatize air traffic control

President Donald Trump said the proposal would modernize air traffic control technology and lead to a more efficient aviation system, but opponents fear the proposal could hand over government assets and more power to the airline industry.

   President Donald Trump on Monday outlined a plan to shift the air traffic control function of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to a self-financing, non-profit organization.
   Trump said the plan would reduce wait times, increase route efficiency and lead to far fewer delays. It also involves modernizing the nation’s outdated system of air traffic control.
   “Since the early days of commercial air service, the federal government has owned and operated the United States air traffic control system, yet more than a half a century later, the federal government is still using much of the exact same outdated technology,” Trump said.
   Our air traffic control system is still running on radar and ground based radio systems that are not even being made anymore, and many controllers must use slips of paper to track planes in the air, he explained.
   Although the FAA has been trying to upgrade the nation’s air traffic control system for many years, after billions of billions of tax dollars spent, the U.S. is still stuck with essentially the same system that does not work, he said.
   The proposal to privatize air traffic control will ideally involve bidding on one entity that can “piece it all together,” rather than many companies all over the U.S. with different systems, Trump said.
    Under the new plan, the FAA will focus on what it does best, which is safety, while the separate, non-profit entity would be charged with ensuring route efficiency, timely service and a reduction in delays.
   “Air traffic control is a complex 24-hour a day business,” said James H. Burnley IV, who served as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation from 1987 to 1989. “While it is very safe, government red tape increasingly impedes the installation of new technologies. As a result, the U.S. is falling ever further behind other countries, such as Canada, that have separated their systems from government constraints. President Trump’s proposal is the right solution for the 21st Century.”
   However, under the Trump administration’s budget proposal released in May, privatizing air-traffic control would increase the deficit by $46 billion over the next decade. The administration acknowledged the $46 billion cost due to 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.
   Opponents of the air traffic control privatization proposal fear it could hand over government assets and more power to the airline industry, and small airports and the general aviation industry fear they could become an “aviation afterthought,” the Alliance for Aviation Across America (AAAA) said in a statement.
   The AAAA also noted how data from the U.S. Department of Transportation shows that most of air traffic control delays are caused by the airlines themselves, surpassing weather and air traffic control.
   “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,” AAAA Executive Director Selena Shilad said.