President Donald Trump has announced his intention to shift the air traffic control function of the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to an independent, non-governmental organization. The plan forms part of Trump’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget proposal and follows a recent Business Airport International online poll, where 83% of readers said they were against the move.
Organizations such as the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) and the General Aviation Manufacturers’ Association (GAMA) are opposed to the idea, and have issued statements saying that air traffic systems should remain under government control. Both have said that privatization will lead to a negative impact on aviation safety, rural and small communities, national security and air traffic control modernization.
GAMA said, “The FAA air traffic control system is the safest, most efficient, largest, and most complex in the world. To a degree not found in other countries, the economic health and vitality of numerous businesses and communities, small and large, depend on the US aviation system. We must not weaken this strong foundation.”
Similarly, Ed Bolen, CEO and president of the NBAA, said, “America’s system of airports and airspace serves the public interest, including the people, businesses and communities that rely on general aviation. Congressional oversight ensures that the entire public has access to aviation.”
According to Forbes, the FAA handles more than 50,000 flights per day and more than 700 million passengers each year. It spends nearly US$10bn on air traffic control each year, funded largely through passenger user fees, with around 28,000 air traffic personnel. It has already implemented US$7.5bn in an updated ‘NextGen’ system that would use satellites to monitor aircraft instead of radar, which is hoped to lead to around US$160bn in savings through 2030.
However, Trump criticized spending on NextGen, approved by his predecessor, Barack Obama. The US President said that the system was “totally out of whack”, over budget and behind schedule.