By Alex Bregman
President Trump has his radar set on the country’s air traffic control system. Right now the system is run by the Federal Aviation Administration … and it’s been that way since 1941.
President Trump wants the government to get out of the air traffic control business. Over the next three years, he wants the FAA to hand over the keys to its Air Traffic Organization, made up of about 30,000 employees, to a nonprofit run by the airlines and other aviation interests like unions and airports.
So instead of being funded by taxes placed on passenger tickets and fuel, it would be funded by all the entities that use the system.
Why go private? By taking the government out of the process, the hope is for a more efficient system with more modern technology.
While we all use GPS on our phones, the FAA still uses radar to keep track of nearly 9 million flights per year.
The FAA has put out a plan to change that using something called NextGen technology, but that wouldn’t go into effect until 2030 with a price tag of $35 billion. No surprise, that plan has already missed some key deadlines.
Backers say that by cutting out red tape, private companies will be able to speed up the process and bring air traffic control into the 21st century.
Who supports the plan? Most major airlines and the air traffic controllers union.
By the way, back in 1981, President Ronald Reagan made major news by firing the controllers for going on strike, which was against the law. The union that organized the strike was fined and eventually went bankrupt. A new union formed in its place — and it seems willing to go along with this plan so long as its labor contract remains.
In countries like the United Kingdom and Canada, supporters say privatization has led to fewer flight delays, but proposals by previous presidents — like Bill Clinton and George W. Bush — remained grounded.
Why? Some congressional Democrats say it reduces safety and puts at risk the rural airports and regional airlines that won’t be able to fund a private system.
Consumer advocates also worry that if airlines are in the pilot’s seat, ticket prices will go up. Other skeptics point to the way airlines have handled recent passenger issues. Remember Dr. Dao?
Despite the turbulence, the president is going full speed ahead with his plan. And when it comes to privatizing the air traffic control system, at least you can say, “Now I Get It.”