June 24, 2017

GOP Senator doubts aviation bill will include Trump's air traffic control plan

08 June 2017, 02:14 | Ignacio Smith

The White House said the model would speed up efforts to update air traffic control technology, reduce flight delays and remove operations from the financial and political uncertainty of Congress.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday moved to privatize the U.S. air traffic control system, as part of a larger scheme to improve the country's infrastructure. With the technology available today, this would no longer be necessary and the control center could be relocated, with air traffic controllers using digital displays.

Steinberg admits that while the current ATC system is older and not always ideal, it keeps air travelers safe through some of the world's most complex air corridors in the U.S. In response to previous such comments by the president, the FAA has said that the current efforts to modernize air traffic operations, dubbed NextGen, have delivered some $2.72 billion in benefits and is running ahead of schedule and under budget on several major initiatives.

The President wants to create a modern non-profit organization that operates not on taxes, but on fees paid by those who use US airspace.

If you're not near a major hub, they could jack up landing fees for small airlines and civilian aircraft.

Among the complaints: The nonprofit would be given the air-traffic control assets at no cost, though no company would buy the equipment in this scrapyard. The White House officials said the new entity would be overseen by a 13-member board that will include representatives from the airline industry, unions, general aviation, airports and other sectors.

"I would say slim to none", Craig Fuller, an aviation consultant who has monitored the fight over air-traffic control for years, said of the proposal's chances.

Senate Plans for Mid-Summer Health Care Vote
That legislative vision appeared to sway some on-the-fence members who could prove critical to cobbling together 50 GOP votes. The White House must do more than simply be willing to sign what the GOP-led Congress sends to the president's desk.

President Trump said his plan to reform the country's air traffic control system will save money, but a study released previous year predicts a 20 to 29 percent increase in operational costs over the next decade if the system is privatized. "The idea that we would take the safest system in the world and the most complicated, and suddenly privatize it, that's insane", he said.

"Wait, why won't you tell us the country?"

But winning congressional approval could still be an uphill battle for Trump. Sen. "The current publicly operated system - the safest in the world - needs more public investment, not private control".

So far, the person holding much of the power over the bill in the Senate, John Thune, the South Dakota Republican chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation committee, stopped short of endorsing the measure in an emailed statement Monday.

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

Many big commercial airlines support privatization, and Trump's proposal even lets airlines help shape the new air traffic control organization's board of directors.

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