Fly­ing ace Sully makes case against pri­va­ti­za­tion

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Kevin Frek­ing

WASH­ING­TON» Who are you go­ing to trust when it comes to what’s best for the fly­ing pub­lic? Mem­bers of Congress or the hero of the Mir­a­cle on the Hud­son, re­tired Capt. Ch­es­ley “Sully” Sul­len­berger?

Pro­po­nents of pri­va­tiz­ing air traf­fic con­trol, a top pri­or­ity of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, face fierce re­sis­tance from some Repub­li­cans, many Democrats and var­i­ous ad­vo­cacy groups who have a force­ful voice: Sul­len­berger, the pi­lot who man­aged to land an air­liner in the Hud­son River with­out the loss of a sin­gle life af­ter the plane lost thrust in both en­gines.

Pri­va­ti­za­tion plus an­other pro­posal that would make it eas­ier for co-pi­lots to get aca­demic credit for cer­ti­fi­ca­tion have drawn con­gres­sional op­po­si­tion and stalled ef­forts to reau­tho­rize the Fed­eral Avi­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion, a mustdo for Congress by Sept. 30.

Sul­len­berger said he con­sid­ers the leg­isla­tive pro­pos­als an at­tempt to boost the bot­tom lines of the air­lines at the ex­pense of the pub­lic. He’s speak­ing out, know­ing that

the ac­tions he and his crew took that Jan­uary day in 2009 have given them a bully pul­pit with the Amer­i­can pub­lic.

“They trust us,” said Sul­len­berger, most re­cently por­trayed on film by ac­tor Tom Hanks. “They know we’re ex­perts at what we’re talk­ing about.”

Repub­li­cans op­posed to pri­va­ti­za­tion rec­og­nize they have a fly­ing ace to make their case.

“No man was bet­ter when it came to safety stan­dards. And then he demon­strated it that day, that he knew what he was talk­ing about,” said Rep. Steve Rus­sell, R-Okla. “I think we need to take pause, and take a step back and lis­ten.”

The push for pri­va­ti­za­tion of air traf­fic con­trol op­er­a­tions has some pow­er­ful back­ers, but sup­port­ers still have more con­vinc­ing to do to se­cure a vote in the House. GOP lead­ers have de­layed a vote un­til af­ter the Au­gust re­cess.

The bill’s back­ers ar­gue that Wash­ing­ton bud­get dys­func­tion and the FAA’s in­ef­fec­tive con­tract man­age­ment have hin­dered the agency’s ef­forts to keep pace with tech­nol­ogy. Ma­jor projects con­sis­tently ex­ceed cost es­ti­mates and fall be­hind sched­ule, in­clud­ing a crit­i­cal move to satel­lite­based nav­i­ga­tion and dig­i­tal com­mu­ni­ca­tions, which will re­duce air­port de­lays.

They want an en­tity that op­er­ates more like a busi­ness.

Many for­eign coun­tries have gone the pri­va­ti­za­tion route, in­clud­ing Canada, Ger­many and Great Bri­tain.

Sul­len­berger stresses that the na­tion is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a golden age in flight safety with no fa­tal com­mer­cial air­line crashes in more than eight years.

“The FAA is not bro­ken,” said Sul­len­berger, who added, “What this pro­posal does is take an ex­treme solution to a non­prob­lem.”

Sul­len­berger ar­gues that pri­va­ti­za­tion would al­low a cor­po­rate mo­nop­oly heav­ily in­flu­enced by the ma­jor air­lines to man­age the na­tion’s skies. It would make key in­vest­ment de­ci­sions that could put prof­its over safety and re­duce ac­cess for the gen­eral avi­a­tion com­mu­nity, which in­cludes com­pany jets, recre­ational pi­lots and agri­cul­ture sprayers.

“It gives the keys of the king­dom to the four largest air­lines,” Sul­len­berger said. “I can guar­an­tee you the four largest air­lines don’t al­ways have the in­ter­ests of the trav­el­ing pub­lic in mind.”

Ch­es­ley “Sully” Sul­len­berger: “They know we’re ex­perts at what we’re talk­ing about.”

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