Thursday, June 08, 2017

Transportation secretary says rural communities would benefit from privatized air-traffic control

AP photo
Senators on both sides of the aisle have questioned whether President Trump's endorsement of airlines' push to privatize air-traffic control would hurt rural areas.

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao says no. She says small communities would actually benefit from privatization, Bart Jansen reports for USA Today. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) said during a transportation committee hearing that the proposal raised many concerns in small communities. Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) expressed concern that only the largest cities would benefit. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) called the proposal "a tough sell" in states where small airports are concerned.

"Chao said rural communities would benefit from moving air-traffic control from the Federal Aviation Administration to a non-profit corporation because the first cuts in a budget fight concern towers where controllers are hired under contract in communities with few flights," Jansen writes. Chao said, "The contract towers are very important to rural America. I’m very, very concerned about the impact on rural America." Her husband is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

Chao said the proposal’s biggest advantage is avoidance of cumbersome federal procurement rules. "The rural areas are most hurt by the status quo," Chao told Jansen. "Access to rural America would actually be enhanced if the air traffic control system were taken out of the bureaucratic government budgeting and procurement processes."

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