Trump Is Said to Again Seek to Spin Off of U.S. Air Traffic
(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump’s proposed 2019 budget being released Monday will include his plan to spin off U.S. air-traffic control to non-profit management, a White House official said.
Trump included a similar proposal in his 2018 budget request and formally released a plan in June to end the current system he’s called an antiquated, wasteful mess.
While the president and members of his administration have made it clear they support splitting air-traffic off from government as a way to spur innovation and improve efficiency, the proposal is largely symbolic given strong bipartisan opposition in Congress.
Representative Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania, the Republican chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, pushed such a plan the past two years, gaining support from his committee. But the proposal faced skepticism from some Republicans and most Democrats, and was never endorsed by the full House.
The hurdles were even greater in the Senate, where some Republicans openly opposed the plan, and it wasn’t included in Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization legislation last year.
The White House has proposed placing the FAA air-traffic division and its 14,000 to 15,000 controllers under the umbrella of a government-chartered nonprofit corporation. It would be funded by taxes on airline tickets and aviation fuel. Many developed nations have similar arrangements, including Canada, the U.K. and Australia.
Proponents, such as most airlines, argue that privatizing air-traffic control would enable swifter adoption of the new technologies known as NextGen, which are designed to reduce delays and aircraft fuel use as well as enhancing safety.
The National Air Traffic Controllers Association union, which hasn’t formally endorsed the plan, has been supportive of the idea due to uncertain FAA funding, said spokesman Doug Church. The union has also been concerned with falling numbers of controllers, which have fallen to about 14,000, he said.
Opponents say that the current system is working well and that air-traffic operations, with their implications for national defense, should remain under government control. Groups representing private aviation, such as the National Business Aviation Association, have pushed to kill the proposal.
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