Supporters of an effort to corporatise US air traffic control (ATC) may have an ally in president-elect Donald Trump, says the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Lawmaker Bill Shuster, a leading supporter of a plan to strip ATC management away from the FAA, tells FlightGlobal that Trump was receptive to the plan during a recent meeting between the men at Trump Tower in New York City.
Shuster also feels optimistic because Trump, who is set to take office tomorrow, has proposed up to $ 1 trillion for modernisation of US infrastructure and has called for reforms that would make government more efficient and effective.
Shuster and others insist that those goals would be accomplished by their plan to corporatise ATC.
Details of that plan emerged in February 2016 when Shuster, a Republican from Pennsylvania, proposed a six-year FAA funding bill that would have stripped the FAA of its ATC function and placed ATC under management of an independent, not-for-profit corporation.
The corporation would be governed by a board composed of system users, and it would be funded by users.
Shuster and other supporters say such an organisation would be more efficient and better suited to implement the FAA’s long-delayed NextGen air traffic modernisation plan.
It would also free ATC from the financial uncertainty and unpredictability of federal funding, which in recent years has flowed into the FAA through short-term, temporary spending bills.
Supporters of the plan to place ATC in private hands include many US airlines, trade group Airlines for America (A4A) and the union representing air traffic controllers.
But industry behemoth Delta Air Lines has opposed the move. Citing its industry-leading operational performance, the Atlanta-based carrier has argued that airlines, working with the FAA, are best positioned to make operational changes that would improve US airspace efficiency.
Shuster’s bill faced opposition and stalled in the House of Representatives.
Then in July 2016, days before the FAA’s funding was set to expire, the US Congress jointly passed a temporary spending bill that lacked Shuster’s provisions.
That bill funds the FAA through 30 September.
Trump has not publicly supported ATC corporatisation, but his nominee for secretary of transportation Elaine Chao has expressed openness to the idea.
During a recent Senate confirmation hearing, Chao called for a “national discussion” about ATC corporatisation.
“This is a huge issue,” Chao said. “I am very much aware of those who are for it and those who are against privatisation. We need to have a national discussion about it.”