Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Small airports and rural interests don't like Trump's plan to privatize and modernize air traffic control

A Jet Blue pilot navigates a next-generation simulator with FAA
Administrator Michael Huerta. (2012 AP photo by John Raoux)
"Despite a campaign full of pledges to aid rural areas, President Trump’s first big move on infrastructure – privatizing key functions of the Federal Aviation Administration – is quickly drawing fire from small airports, rural communities and their federal lawmakers," Stuart Leavenworth reports for McClatchy Newspapers.

The plan, announced Monday, is backed by airlines, the traffic controllers' union and former transportation secretaries, "partly because of the agency’s slow track record in modernizing its technology," Lewvenworth reports, but "Opponents fear the plan could hand over government assets and more power to the airline industry, which will have representatives on the new non-profit board. Small airports and the general aviation industry fear they could become an aviation afterthought."

Republican Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas told McClatchy, “Proposals to privatize air-traffic control threaten the reliable transportation options provided by small airports and the general-aviation community for millions of Americans. All but our largest airports nationwide stand to be hurt by this proposal. Privatization eliminates the chance for Congress and the American people to provide oversight, creates uncertainty in the marketplace and is likely to raise costs for consumers.”

Leavenworth writes, "Nearly all interests agree the nation’s air-traffic-control system is safe but antiquated, relying on radar while other nations long ago started using GPS," the global positioning system. "Trump’s claim on Monday that his FAA plan will 'maintain support for rural communities and small airports' was immediately disputed by the Alliance for Aviation Across America, a group that represents small airports and other groups."

The president didn't actually propose anything new, just sent "routine letters to Congress" endorsing "a minimally detailed plan" in Trump's budget" and proposed for several years in Congress, Noah Bierman of the Los Angeles Times reports, but "Trump employed all the trappings traditionally reserved for signing major bills into law." James Hohmann of The Washington Post cites Bierman and writes, "But low-information voters may not be able to tell the difference when they see the B-roll of the ceremony on TV or an image in the paper."

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