Trump proposes privatizing US air traffic control as part of infrastructure plan

UPDATE — 8:50 p.m. EDT: Donald Trump traveled to Cincinnati on Wednesday to tout the White House’s plan for revitalizing America’s infrastructure systems by using $200 billion in federal money over a nine-year period to spur private investment totaling $1 trillion.

“We will fix it,” Trump said. “We will create the first-class infrastructure our country and our people deserve.”

The president also used the opportunity to meet with families negatively effected by Obamacare and press the Senate to pass the House Republican healthcare bill.

 

President Trump announced plans to modernize America’s air traffic control system on Monday as part of an extensive infrastructure investment strategy that totals $1 trillion.

With flight delays costing the U.S. economy almost $25 billion per year, the current system was initially designed to handle 100,000 commercial passengers. Air traffic control now accommodates almost 1 billion customers per year. Attempts by the previous administration to upgrade the system cost $7 billion.

“At a time when every passenger has GPS technology in their pockets, our air traffic control system still runs on radar and ground-based radio systems that they don’t even make anymore, they can’t even fix anymore, and many controllers must use slips of paper to track our thousands and thousands of planes that are up in the air,” President Trump said in prepared remarks from the White House.

The modernizing plan includes turning air traffic control operations to a private, nonprofit corporation, which would be governed by a board including representatives of major airlines, unions, and airports among others.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) would remain in charge of safety regulations while the new, private entity would handle operations. Canada improved its air traffic control system with a similar proposal 20 years ago.

Congressional Democrats mostly oppose the privatization plan, which is part of a wider focus on repairing the nation’s infrastructure of roads and bridges, as well as airports, arguing the proposal places too much authority in the hands of the airline industry.

Pointing out the safety record of the current system, including no fatal domestic airliner crash in eight years, Democrats noted repeated computer system failures of private airlines and questioned their ability to handle complex modernization.

Privatization would, “hand control of one of our nation’s most important public assets to special interests and the big airlines,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.).

Private pilots and smaller airports also question the plan, fearing they will pay more under a private corporation while receiving fewer services. Airline companies counter that the current FAA NextGen program to modernize the air traffic system is taking too long and provides little benefit.

The current system is based on radar and voice communication and is being upgraded to satellite navigation and digital communication.

“The FAA has been trying to upgrade our nation’s air traffic control system for a long period of years. But after billions and billions of tax dollars spent and the many years of delays, we are still stuck with an ancient, broken, antiquated, horrible system that doesn’t work,” Trump concluded.

“Other than that, it’s quite good.”

 

[RT America] [AP] [YouTube/Washington Post]