The proposal by President Donald Trump to privatize air traffic control has left leaders in the sector and even in the political arena divided. Though it is not clear whether Trump’s proposal will be acted upon in Congress, the president nevertheless signed a letter and a memo which outlined to the legislative body a blueprint of how the air-traffic control system in the country could be overhauled.
Among other things, one of the proposals in the blueprint is to have airline passenger taxes replaced with user fees which would be utilized to fund a not-for-profit firm which would be charged with the responsibility of managing the air traffic control system in the country. At the moment the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration runs the air-traffic control system. The blueprint also calls for the technological overhaul of air traffic control.
Too much power
Some of the critics of the plan to privatize the air-traffic control system, such as Bill Nelson, the U.S. Senator from Florida, argue that privatization of the system would be putting too much power in the hands of the airlines. This would be a big risk given that some of them have at times seemed overwhelmed by their own information technology systems.
A section of industry providers are also supportive of the idea of technologically overhauling air traffic control systems through dropping the use of radio and radar signals to track planes and instead resorting to global positioning satellites.
Safety of air-travel
Another matter that is of concern is what effect privatizing air traffic control will have on safety. In an interview with the News-Journal, Daytona Beach International Airport business development director, Jay Cassens has said that there will no change to safety guidelines or inspections since the FAA would still be the regulator. The chair of the Department of Applied Aviation Sciences at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Sid McGuirk, said that air accidents are not likely to increase if the plan to privatize was passed.
“We have one of the most complex, safest air traffic control systems on the globe… For the life of me, I can’t imagine that we would transition to a system that is less safe,” McGuirk said.
Some airlines such as Delta are of the view that privation of the air-traffic control system would result in higher prices for flyers. In a report that was released last year the airline said that when air-traffic control was privatized in Canada, there was an increase of 59% in air-traffic control charges on airline tickets.