Chances of Privatizing Air Traffic Control Improving, Advocates Say

Chances of Privatizing Air Traffic Control Improving, Advocates Say

FILE - An air traffic controller works in the tower at Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark, N.J., May 21, 2015.


WASHINGTON —

The chances that the federal government could hand off the U.S. air traffic control system to private management are increasing, say advocates who report they are getting supportive feedback from President-elect Donald Trump and his team.

U.S. Representative Bill Shuster, who chairs the House Transportation Committee, has met with Trump and incoming Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to make his case for moving the nation's 14,500 air traffic controllers and their mission out of government control and into a nonprofit organization.

Shuster and other privatization advocates argue that spinning off air traffic control into a nongovernment entity would allow for a more efficient system and rapid, cost-effective improvements in technology, in part by avoiding the government procurement process.

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association, the union that represents controllers, came out in favor of Shuster's legislation earlier this year.

Congressional, airline opposition

But he has run into bipartisan opposition in both the House and the Senate, as well as from some of the nation's airlines. Opponents say the U.S. system is so large that privatization would not save money, would drive up ticket costs and could create a national security risk.

The landscape might change once Trump, who campaigned on improving the nation's infrastructure, occupies the White House on January 20.

Chances of Privatizing Air Traffic Control Improving, Advocates Say

FILE - A Southwest Airlines jet waiting to depart in view of the air traffic control tower at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, April 23, 2013.

Apart from Shuster, officials and lobbyists who work in infrastructure construction say the idea of privatizing air traffic controllers as part of an infrastructure bill is gaining steam, especially among those who are concerned that Congress will not be able to pass a separate sweeping transportation bill.

Congress has been averse to spending money, but privatizing air traffic control systems would shift the cost of upgrades from tax coffers to air travelers, the kind of move that makes lawmakers view it as free instead of an increase in federal spending.

"I've had some conversations with Trump transition folks and they seemed very interested in putting this in their larger infrastructure bill," Shuster said.

Expensive upgrades

The air traffic control system is in need of expensive upgrades, including the multibillion-dollar implementation of "NextGen," a system that would utilize GPS to direct aircraft instead of the outdated use of radar.

In Shuster's vision, the move would not enrich any particular company as air traffic control would be overseen by a nonprofit that reinvest any profits back into infrastructure improvements.

Shuster broached the subject with Trump two years ago, he said, and the two have discussed it several additional times. He met with Chao last week.

It could take a strong presidential push for the privatization effort. Earlier this year, it failed to get even enough support from Republican members for a vote on the House floor.

In February, Delta released a study arguing that privatization would cost air travelers more and would not achieve any savings.

Many air traffic controller operations are funded through ticket taxes, which are levied on every flight. Historically, those taxes have been kept low by the government's aversion to raising rates.

But should control of the ticket tax move to an outside board, opponents are concerned that ticket prices could rise.



Add Comment

all comments

  Other news

more
Marmoset monkeys learn to call the same way human infants learn to babble

Marmoset monkeys learn to call the same way human infants learn to babble..

25-May, 14:48

A baby's babbles start to sound like speech more quickly if they get...

Proud papa

Proud papa..

24-May, 20:40

Donald Trump's proposed 2018 budget would create the first federal plan...

Ansell offloads condom division for $600m

Ansell offloads condom division for $600m..

25-May, 08:48

A Chinese consortium has paid $600m (?462m) for the world's...

Tom Hardy starts JustGiving fundraising campaign for victims of the Manchester terror attack

Tom Hardy starts JustGiving fundraising campaign for victims of the Manchester terror attack..

24-May, 16:09

Tom Hardy has set up a JustGiving page to help the victims of...

Anne Hathaway: 'I disliked myself so intensely' growing up

Anne Hathaway: 'I disliked myself so intensely' growing up..

20-Apr, 14:40

Anne Hathaway has it all: a happy marriage, a new baby and blockbuster...

What US options are 'on the table' with North Korea?

What US options are 'on the table' with North Korea?..

20-Mar, 23:20

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has signaled that the U.S. will take a...

More aggressive US strikes in Somalia said to risk civilians

More aggressive US strikes in Somalia said to risk civilians..

01-Apr, 08:58

President Donald Trump's approval of greater U.S. military authority to...

Border Town Prodigal Episode 15

Border Town Prodigal Episode 15..

20-Feb, 02:06

The following Border Town Prodigal Episode 15 English Sub has been...