During the 1980s, when air traffic controllers at America’s airports went on strike demanding higher pay President Ronald Reagan refused to cave to their demands and instead fired them!
While Reagan fired thousands of striking air traffic controllers, the former president was never able to fulfill a conservative dream of privatizing the system. But advocates says they have received positive feedback from President-elect Donald Trump and his team that privatizing our nations air traffic controllers could become a reality.
U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, who chairs the House of Representatives Transportation Committee, has met with Trump and incoming Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to make his case for moving the nation’s 14,500 air traffic controllers and their mission out of government control and into a non-profit organization.
Shuster and other privatization advocates argue that spinning off air traffic control into a non-government entity would allow for a more efficient system and rapid, cost-effective improvements of technology, in part by avoiding the government procurement process.
The National Air Traffic Controllers Association, the union that represents controllers, came out in favor of Shuster’s legislation earlier this year.
The Congressman spearheading the potential privatization of the air traffic controllers has unsurprisingly run into bipartisan opposition in Congress and some backlash from some major airlines. Opponents of privatization argue that America’s airline system is so large that privatizing would not save money, drive up ticket costs and could create a national security risk.
One of the biggest debates in Congress every year is the transportation bill, and privatizing the nation’s air traffic controllers could help shift the cost of upgrades from “tax coffers to air travelers, the kind of move that makes lawmakers view it as free instead of an increase in federal spending.”
According to Reuters, America’s air traffic control system is in need of some major expensive upgrades, including “the multi-billion dollar implementation of “NextGen,” a system that would utilize GPS to direct aircraft instead of the outdated use of radar”:
In Shuster’s vision, the move would not enrich any particular company as air traffic control would be overseen by a nonprofit that reinvest any profits back into infrastructure improvements.
Shuster first broached the subject with Trump two years ago, he said, and the two have discussed it several additional times. He met with Chao last week.
It could take a strong presidential push for the privatization effort. Earlier this year, it failed to get even enough support from Republican members for a vote on the House floor.
Do you think President-elect Trump can and will want to privatize America’s air traffic control system or is this just a pipe dream? Share your thoughts below!
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