Published: Tue, June 20, 2017
Economy | By Annette Adams

Plans To Privatize Air Traffic Control System In Works

Plans To Privatize Air Traffic Control System In Works

WSB Consumer expert Clark Howard says, "I have been a big advocate for us privatizing our air traffic control for as far back as I can remember".

About one in five flights arrived late or were cancelled at USA airports a year ago, delaying travel for almost a million passengers.

To cut down on those delays, the Federal Aviation Administration has been rolling out new systems to replace outdated radar navigation and radio communication with modern GPS and digital communications. Recent controller furloughs and government shutdowns have worsened the problem.

The National Air Traffic Control Association, which wasn't at the White House event, has said the current system is unacceptable and previously supported a federally chartered, nonprofit model.

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.

Modernizing and or privatizing the air traffic control system is something The Heritage Foundation has long supported.

USA airlines have lobbied to separate air traffic control from the FAA for two decades and Trump's budget plan released earlier this year called for the changes, placing air traffic operations under an "independent, non-governmental organization". Trump administration officials have cited Shuster's bill as a starting point for their efforts.

Trump said current air traffic reform efforts have failed and were a "total waste of money". Additionally, the air-traffic control system would move toward a model based on GPS technology, rather than the more rudimentary radar-based technology now used, meaning - in theory, at least - that planes could operate more efficiently, use less fuel and charge less. "If you make it harder for small aircraft owners to fly, some of them are just going to stop". The union that represents air traffic controllers supports privatization, but ultimately, it is up to the House.

The FAA has been trying to get up to speed with its Next Generation Air Transport System, or NextGen, but analysts say it's fallen short of expectations. Chao will again address the issue before the House Transportation Committee on Thursday.

Privatization supporters complain that the FAA's procurement process is so cumbersome that new equipment is no longer the latest technology by the time it's acquired.

Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and a strong proponent of ATC privatization, suggested that he plans to move forward with a reform proposal again, which could also be in the coming weeks. The FAA would continue to monitor safety and write air-traffic regulations under the plan. During that trip, members viewed air traffic control operations at the Ottawa airport.

The plan calls for creating a board with representatives from airlines, unions, trade groups and the federal government.

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