The road to privatization continued Thursday as President Trump met with top executives and lobbyists in the airline industry to deliberate the restructuring of traffic control operations in the country.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has been taking significant heat from airline companies, complaining that the FAA’s program to modernize air traffic control operations, NextGen, has been taking too long and has been too costly due to government shutdowns and budget uncertainties. “I hear we’re spending billions and billions of dollars”, the president exclaimed. “It’s a system that’s totally out of whack.” Trump promised to roll back regulations and work toward possibly privatizing the air traffic control industry in the United States.
After the meeting, Airlines for America CEO Nick Calio said that Trump was “extraordinarily positive” to the idea of replacing FAA air traffic control operations with a private, nonprofit corporation most likely to be ran by most major airlines.
This isn’t the first time an effort to privatize the air traffic control industry has been attempted. Chairman of the House Transportation Committee and Republican congressman Bill Shuster introduced the Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization (AIRR) Act to privatize operations in 2016- to no avail after the bill stalled. The National Air Traffic Controllers Association has come out in support of privatizing the industry, although most FAA unions are opposed.
Amidst other discussion, Trump expressed concern that the current FAA administrator, Michael Huerta, appointed by the previous administration, has never flown a plane. He said he believes that the FAA could potentially work better if it was run by a pilot.
However, when Calio was asked if the president had committed to back a bill to privatize the air traffic control industry he replied, “I think he’s on track to do that.”
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