During a recent event in the White House, President Donald Trump signed a letter of initiative in order to privatize America’s air traffic control system. The bold idea is not new. In 1987, the Commission on Privatization of President Ronald Reagan identified air-traffic control as ready for outsourcing, but the said idea failed. Now, the Trump Administration is hoping that its proposal would be passed in Congress.
Broken. Horrible. Antiquated. These are some of the words that President Trump used to outline the present air-traffic control system of America. Now, the Federal Aviation Administration, a government agency that takes over all features of commercial aviation, is running the system.
The idea is to transfer some responsibilities of the FAA to a private nonprofit organization. The President’s plan, however, is not a complete privatization because it would only take about two-thirds of the workforce. The FAA would still continue to oversee the air-traffic control system, but the newly formed organization will be accountable for directing planes both in the air and on the ground.
President Donald Trump has argued that his idea of privatizing the air traffic control system will make flying safer. The administration believes that refurbishing air traffic control would lessen delays and increase efficiency. He has also guaranteed that taxpayers would not spend a dime for this move.
The plan is said to be necessary because efforts to modernize the system have been interrupted even though the number of American travelers have increased to 700 million a year.
The FAA has been trying to work on a $35-billion upgrade for nearly 15 years. The Next Generation Air Transportation System also known as NextGen, is a new National Airspace System that is due for implementation around America in stages between 2012 and 2025.
50 other nations have privatized or partially privatized their air traffic control systems.
The system is going to scrap the radar-based aircraft tracking in favor of GPS, the controllers’ voice commands for digital ones, and it will phase in many advanced flight planning software. The upgrades will let airlines to make more direct and faster routes.
Despite all the preparations for the upgrade, the NextGen program has missed a lot of its key deadlines over the years.
Trump said “our plan will get you where you need to go more quickly, more reliably, more affordably and, yes – for the first time in a long time – on time. We will launch this air travel revolution by modernizing the outdated system of air traffic control. It’s about time”.
There were also previous attempts at privatizing the United States’ air traffic control system in the past. Back in 1970s, the idea was proposed but didn’t go anywhere. Last year, Representative Bill Shuster, the Republican Chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, brought the idea back. But unfortunately, the legislation got scrapped in the Senate.
Not everyone is a fan of the move. Rural airports, small airlines, communities, and general aviation enthusiasts are nervous about the move. They are worried that new user fees could create a bigger burden on smaller operators.
Congressional Democrats are not too crazy about the idea, either. Nancy Pelosi said, “selling off our air traffic control system threatens passenger safety, undermines the FAA’s ongoing modernization, jeopardizes access to rural airports, and adds to the deficit”.
Countries that have a Private Air Traffic Control System
Canada, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany have already separated their air traffic control functions from their safety oversight and regulatory functions. Each country has commercialized its air traffic control function into an Air Navigation Service Provider using different organizational structures.
The Washington Post says Canada is the only country that has developed a private nonprofit air-traffic corporation called NavCanada. It can create long-term financial commitments, lower the fees it charges airlines, and raise private capital.
National Air Traffic Services or NATS is the main Air Navigation Service Provider in the United Kingdom. It provides en-route air traffic control services to flights within the Shanwick Oceanic Control Area and the UK Flight Information Regions. It also provides air traffic control services to 14 airports in the UK.
Deutsche Flugsicherung is Germany’s private air traffic control organization. DFS provides a safe and fast flow of air traffic over Germany. It operates control centers in Langen, Karlsruhe, Bremen, and Munich.
At least 50 other nations have privatized or partially privatized their air traffic control systems.
The Trump Administration’s move to privatize air traffic control system will not only see innovation but growth as well. Growth, which is going to be beneficial for all people. Private businesses can provide better, more efficient, cheaper, and safer air travel.