Rep. John Katko backs Trump plan to privatize air traffic control system

The aviation community is continuing to respond to the Trump administration's proposal on Monday to privatize the air traffic control system.

Bay Area NATCA representative Scott Conde told NBC Bay Area last fall there's already a critical shortage of air traffic controllers. "If Trump wants to actually put forward a proposal along these lines, he's going to have to put a lot of personal juice behind it". Trump says a major source of frustration and ultimately cost is America's out of date Air Traffic Control System that manages nearly a billion flights per year. "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. Thanks to FAA's cumbersome budgeting and upgrade process, this technology will continue to be implemented in the U.S. in dribs and drabs over the next 15 years.

Critics of the current system say the FAA obliges political interests instead of the passengers they are supposed to serve because funds usage is determined by Congress.

President Trump's proposal outlines an overhaul to the current system, now run by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Transportation department statistics show that general and corporate aviation together contribute about 1 percent of the nation's Gross Domestic Product, while commercial aviation contributes about 5 percent. 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.

Many people deem the air traffic control system as one of the safest in the world, but criticism is emerging over efficiency and technology.

Despite that support, the nation's largest airline passenger organization raised concerns Monday about handing over control of the nation's air traffic to a private organization. Most of America's major airlines also support the plan; in a statement to Bloomberg, a spokeswoman for American Airlines said that the current system is "inefficient and causes thousands of avoidable flight delays".

The proposal is similar to one pushed previous year by Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Shuster's privatization proposal from past year called for user fees on commercial aviation and only on segments of general aviation to fund the proposed private ATC entity.

Here's the rest of President Trump's "infrastructure week:" In coming days he and other administration officials will call on states, cities and private companies to pay more for rebuilding roads, bridges, railways, airports and other types of infrastructure.

McQueen says the idea of privatizing air-traffic control has been raised periodically since at least the Clinton administration, and it has both advocates and opponents in the industry.

  • Zachary Reyes