Will Privatizing Air Traffic Control Services Result In Modernization?

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Trump says the airline industry in America still relies on radar and ground control tracking systems, when nearly all of us have GPS enabled devices in our pockets.

"We live in a modern age and yet our air traffic control system is stuck painfully in the past", President Donald Trump said at a White House event announcing his plan to modernize America's aging air traffic control system.

Currently, air traffic control is handled by the FAA's more than 13,000 licensed controllers, who are located across the United States at regional control centers.

"The U.S. has a very safe air traffic system today and we don't hear complaints from our almost 350,000 members about it", said Mark Baker, the group's president.

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao echoed the President with expectations of a much improved air traffic control system.

Under the new proposal, the FAA would no longer be responsible for providing air traffic services and instead, it would move to a private, nonprofit organization. "We look forward to reviewing the specifics of the air-traffic control (ATC) reform legislation so we can evaluate whether it satisfies our Union's principles, including protecting the rights and benefits of the ATC workforce".

This concept has the bipartisan support of numerous former leaders of the FAA and Department of Transportation, as well as most major airlines, the air traffic controllers' union, and business groups.

One of the chief concerns, particularly among rural Republicans, is whether the interests of general aviation users and rural communities will be adequately protected and represented if a corporation is in charge of the country's air traffic control system.

Dismissing the current system as an anachronism, Trump said the air traffic control operations needed to be separated from the Federal Aviation Administration, an approach that US airlines have long championed. Governed by a board of directors, the organization will include airline representatives, government officials and aviation groups.

"Today we're preposing to take American air travel into the future, finally, finally", said Trump.

"Anything in terms of impacting the system in terms of cost or safety we should be firmly against", said Mark Baker, President of the 350,000 member Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. As Chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I would never support a policy that would endanger the safety of our aviation system and passengers. Also, delays in updating landing and takeoff procedures to incorporate technological advances make the system less efficient.

Democrats have also pointed to the unprecedented safety under the current system and noted repeated computer system failures in recent years by US airlines, questioning whether they are ready to handle complex technology modernizations.

This privatization proposal would likely disrupt air traffic control modernization, remove most Congressional oversight, create a new corporate monopoly with the power to tax consumers.