Trump’s plan calls for pri­va­tiz­ing air traf­fic con­trol oper­a­tions

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Joan Lowy

washington» Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is call­ing for pri­va­tiz­ing the na­tion’s air traf­fic con­trol oper­a­tions in his bud­get pro­posal, a top pri­or­ity of the air­line in­dus­try.

The pro­posal says spin­ning off air traf­fic oper­a­tions from the Fed­eral Avi­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion and plac­ing them un­der an “in­de­pen­dent, non-gov­ern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tion” would make the sys­tem “more ef­fi­cient and in­no­va­tive while main­tain­ing safety.”

There are about 50,000 air­line and other air­craft flights a day in the United States. Both sides of the pri­va­ti­za­tion de­bate say the sys­tem is one of the most com­plex and safest in the world. The FAA would con­tinue to pro­vide safety over­sight of the sys­tem un­der a con­gres­sional pri­va­ti­za­tion plan.

Air­lines have been lob­by­ing vig­or­ously for the change, say­ing the FAA’s Nex­tGen pro­gram to mod­ern­ize the air traf­fic sys­tem is tak­ing too long and has pro­duced too few ben­e­fits. In­dus­try of­fi­cials say that pri­va­ti­za­tion would re­move air traf­fic oper­a­tions from the un­cer­tain­ties of the an­nual con­gres­sional bud­get process, which have hin­dered the FAA’s abil­ity to make long-term pro­cure­ment com­mit­ments.

“Our sys­tem is safe, but it is out­dated and not as ef­fi­cient as it should or could be,” said Nick Calio, pres­i­dent of Air­lines for Amer­ica.

The Na­tional Air Traf­fic Con­trollers As­so­ci­a­tion, the union that rep­re­sents the FAA’s 14,000 con­trollers, backed an un­suc­cess­ful con­gres­sional at­tempt at pri­va­ti­za­tion last year. The union said it will eval­u­ate Trump’s plan. Union of­fi­cials have complained that the FAA has been un­able to re­solve chronic con­troller un­der­staffing at some of the na­tion’s busiest fa­cil­i­ties, and they say they’ve be­come

Sub­si­dies for ru­ral air­line ser­vice would be dis­con­tin­ued. Pres­i­dent Don­ald

Trump called for elim­i­nat­ing sub­si­dized air ser­vice to ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties, many of which sup­ported his elec­tion after he promised to cre­ate jobs.

Trump’s pro­posal would sever an eco­nomic life­line that en­ables ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties to at­tract and keep busi­nesses and jobs. The pro­gram has long been a tar­get of con­ser­va­tives who say the sub­si­dies are too ex­pen­sive for the rel­a­tively small num­ber of pas­sen­gers served. Elim­i­na­tion of the pro­gram would save about $175 mil­lion a year, ac­cord­ing to the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“We do ap­pre­ci­ate run­ning gov­ern­ment as ef­fi­ciently as pos­si­ble. Those are our val­ues ... (but) I would ar­gue that this pro­gram is vi­tal for ru­ral Amer­ica,” said Laurie Gill, the Repub­li­can mayor of Pierre, S.D.

Three post-9/11 air­port se­cu­rity pro­grams would be ended. The Trump

ad­min­is­tra­tion wants to elim­i­nate three air­port se­cu­rity pro­grams put in place after the Sept. 11, 2001, ter­ror­ist at­tacks. The pro­posal says that $80 mil­lion could be saved by cut­ting grants that pay for lo­cal po­lice in air­ports, elim­i­nat­ing a pro­gram that sends uni­formed armed of­fi­cers to sweep pub­lic fa­cil­i­ties and end­ing the train­ing for Trans­porta­tion Se­cu­rity Ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cers in how to rec­og­nize un­usual pas­sen­ger be­hav­ior. dis­cour­aged by the mod­ern­iza­tion ef­fort’s slow progress.

Op­po­nents say the process of trans­fer­ring air traf­fic con­trol oper­a­tions from the FAA to a cor­po­ra­tion could take years and be dis­rup­tive.


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