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Trump calls for 'quicker, safer' air-traffic control in bid for privatization

By
Allen Cone
President Donald Trump interacts with members of Congress on Monday before signing a letter of initiative to privatize the nation's air traffic control system during an event in the East Room of the White House. Photo by Pat Benic/UPI
President Donald Trump interacts with members of Congress on Monday before signing a letter of initiative to privatize the nation's air traffic control system during an event in the East Room of the White House. Photo by Pat Benic/UPI | License Photo

June 5 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump announced his plan Monday to privatize the air traffic control system in the United States and remove control of the tracking and guiding of planes from the Federal Aviation Administration.

"We are prepared to enter a great new era in American aviation," Trump said at the White House. "It's time to join the future and make flights quicker, safer, more reliable."

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Trump wants the system to become a non-profit organization funded by fees from aircraft using the system instead of taxation on aviation fuel and airline tickets.

Trump envisions modernized operations to replace the current operation that he said is "stuck, painfully, in the past." He also called the system "ancient, broken, antiquated" and "horrible."

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Trump said the FAA is too slow in upgrading technology.

"Honestly, they didn't know what the hell they were doing," Trump said. "A total waste of money."

Some airlines support the change, and executives joined the president in the East Room of the White House. Delta Air Lines opposes the change and in 2016 released a study that such a move could increase traveler costs by 20 percent to 29 percent.

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The air traffic controllers' union also is supportive of the proposal.

The group Flyers' Rights calls it the "creation of an airline-controlled corporate monopoly."

Congress will consider the proposal this week.

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Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao is scheduled testify on infrastructure improvements before the Senate Transportation Committee on Wednesday and before the House Transportation Committee on Thursday. The FAA is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

In 2016, House Transportation Committee chairman Bill Shuster proposed legislation for a private, non-profit corporation to operate, manage and control the air traffic control system, similar to what Canada does. The FAA would still have some oversight capacity, but the major airlines would govern this corporation. The 30,000 air traffic control employees would be removed from the government's payroll.

Rep. Peter DeFazio, the ranking Democrat on the transportation committee, supports reform of the system.

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"There is no consensus on this short-sighted privatization proposal," DeFazio, of Oregon, said. "Committee Democrats are working on targeted reforms to help speed up the FAA's modernization efforts without privatizing the system. We hope these reforms will be bipartisan."

FAA air traffic controllers manage more than 50,000 flights per day.

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The proposal is part of Trump's $1 trillion infrastructure improvement plans. The White House is calling it "infrastructure week" with the president planning to speak in Cincinnati on plans to improve inland water ways on the Ohio River.

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