Trump Budget Blueprint Backs Privatizing Air Traffic Control

Airlines think it’s a good idea, and a chance to modernize the systems that manage planes in the air.

By Alexandra HartMarch 17, 2017 9:01 am

If President Donald Trump has his way, the U.S. air traffic control system will be privatized. The idea is the first bullet point in the transportation section of the White House budget blueprint. Some major airlines including Texas-based American and Southwest support privatization of air traffic control.

Andrea Ahles, who follows the airline industry for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram says that commercial airlines have been advocating privatized air traffic control for some time, and bills to take the function out of the hands of the FAA have been introduced in Congress.

“Representative Bill Shuster, a Pennsylvania Republican, introduced a bill that would remove air traffic operations from the FAA, and move [them] over to a private corporation that’s funded primarily by passenger fees that are charged as part of your airline ticket,” she says.

That approach has been successful in other countries, Ahles says. In Canada, regulation of air traffic control is split between a non-government organization called Nav Canada, which collects fees to support the air traffic control system, and the government’s transportation agency, which manages safety issues.

Ahles says the flying experience for consumers would be unchanged by privatizing air traffic control.

“From a safety perspective everything that I’ve seen on these proposals has shown that the consumer wouldn’t notice,” she says.

Airlines back a change in the air traffic control system because they want it modernized, Ahles says.

“There has been this program in place for the past 10 to 15 years called next gen [sp] which is the way that the federal government has been trying to upgrade the technology that is  used by air traffic controllers,” she says. “They’re still using…over 40 year old radar technology.”


Written by Shelly Brisbin.