WASHINGTON DC: President Donald Trump plans to modernize US air traffic control systems, while transferring operations from a federal oversight body to a self-financing nonprofit organization. The proposal is part of the administration’s ambitious infrastructure agenda.
Current air traffic control (ATC) still runs on radar and ground-based radio technology, Trump told reporters at the White House on Monday. The system was first designed at a time when the number of air passengers was 100,000 a year, while that number is now approaching 1 billion.
“Our air traffic control is stuck, painfully, in the past,” Trump said, decrying the “ancient, broken, antiquated, horrible system that doesn’t work.”
Flight delays are costing the US economy approximately $25 billion a year, the President said, and the previous administration’s attempts to upgrade the system cost $7 billion while yielding no results.
“A modern air traffic control system will make life better for all Americans,” Trump said.
In addition to upgrading ATC technology with “the best equipment anywhere in the world,” Trump’s reforms would include turning over ATC operations to a “self-financing nonprofit” corporation, governed by a board made up mostly of representatives of major airlines. The Federal Aviation Administration would remain in charge of air safety regulations.
The President cited the example of Canada, which did the same thing 20 years ago, greatly improving efficiency of operations while reducing costs.
“Today we’ve taken the first step to clearing the runway for more jobs, lower prices, and much, much, much better transportation,” Trump concluded.
The plan is based on legislation previously proposed by Representative Bill Shuster (R-Pennsylvania), who currently serves as Chairman of the House Transportation Committee.
Airlines and the air traffic controllers’ union are generally in favor of the proposal. However, the nonprofit advocacy group Flyers’ Rights called it an “airline-controlled corporate monopoly” and said it would hand the airlines control over a core public asset and give them “nearly unbridled power to extract new fees and increased taxes from passengers.”