Published: Tue, June 06, 2017
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

Trump unveils plan to upgrade air traffic control system

The businessman-turned-president's push to privatize the system came as the airline industry and regulators have managed an extensive period of safety in the skies - there hasn't been a fatal crash of a domestic airliner in the eight years.

But Democrats, who agree with him on broad principle, immediately slammed Trump's plan, saying that his ideas will go nowhere in Congress. That casts further doubt on the idea that red tape is holding the agency back from modernizing air traffic control. "I think it's very hard to get it done for a number of reasons". But the absence of a strong argument against privatizing air traffic control is not the same thing as a strong argument for doing it.

The president plans to travel to OH on Wednesday to address ways of improving levees, dams and locks along inland waterways that are crucial to agricultural exports.

Business aircraft operators, private pilots and non-hub airports have also expressed concerns they may need to pay more and get less service under a private corporation even though airlines have promised that won't happen.

They point to the slow-going move from a radar-based system to one that uses GPS technologies as evidence of a need for change. But it faces a fractured base in his own party and opposition from powerful friends on Capitol Hill. Their lobbying group, the Airlines for America, praised the Trump plan.

The U.S. now directs air traffic using ground-based radar that was set up after World War II.

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"It'll be as safe as it is today or safer", he said. James Inhofe of Oklahoma.

The Government Accountability Office said in 2016 that some major features, including Global Positioning System tracking, will be ready by 2020 and most will be up and running by 2025.

The chief labor groups that would be impacted were also divided. A Trump administration plan to turn air traffic operations over to a private, nonprofit is aimed at speeding upgrades to the system.

Officials on Monday said they want the Federal Aviation Administration to continue its role in safety enforcement.

The FAA spends almost $10 billion a year on air traffic control, funded largely through passenger user fees, and has about 28,000 air traffic control personnel. What would that mean for air travel? He said he was seeking "bipartisan support as well as a consensus among the aviation community".

Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., chairman of the House Transportation Committee, embraced the concept of privatization past year and fought to win the approval of such a bill in his committee. It was never brought up before the full House after the Senate let it die.

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The battle for this proposal to be passed will not be easy, however.

Infrastructure was one area that Democrats said they might be able to work with Trump because of his campaign and post-election pledges to spend a trillion dollars on aging roads, bridges and other projects. "We create an independent, not-for-profit corporation that will be governed by the users of the system".

"This is the first important step to clearing the runway for more jobs, lower prices and much much much better transportation", said Mr. Trump.

Arguing that "it's time to join the future", Trump pushed for the separation of air traffic control operations from the Federal Aviation Administration, adopting an approach long championed by US airlines.

Still, for proponents of the plan, some of whom have been pushing for it for decades, seeing a high-profile endorsement from the president was encouraging.

The Aviation Innovation Reform and Reauthorization Act is actually not new, as indicated by this article on May 13, previous year (almost 12 months ago) which suggests the several reforms removes America's air traffic control system from the Federal Aviation Administration and creates a federally chartered, nonprofit corporation. The Clinton administration pushed a similar plan in the 1990s. "The fight is engaged and the momentum has shifted significantly".

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