President Trump Unveils Air Traffic Control Reform Initiative

On Monday, President Donald Trump announced his administration's plans to lead the country into a "great new era in American aviation" through the privatization of air traffic control, something that has been strongly criticized by aviation groups. The Air Traffic Control Reform Initiative, he promises, will "finally" solve some of the greatest problems that he says have plagued American air travel, putting to end what Trump called wasteful spending by the previous administration.

“For too many years, our country has tolerated unacceptable delays at the airport, long wait times on the tarmac, and a slowing of commerce and travel that costs us billions and billions of dollars in lost hours and lost dollars themselves,” the president declared. “Today we’re proposing to take American air travel into the future, finally. We’re proposing reduced wait times, increased route efficiency, and far fewer delays. Our plan will get you where you need to go more quickly, more reliably, more affordably, and yes, for the first time in a long time, on time. We will launch this air travel revolution by modernizing the outdated system of air traffic control. It’s about time.”

Trump emphasized outdated technology, and particularly radar systems that he says companies don’t even make and can’t even fix anymore. “Our air traffic control system was designed when roughly 100,000 people flew at our airports each year,” Trump said. “We are now approaching nearly one billion passengers annually. The current system cannot keep up, hasn’t been able to keep up for many years.”

He also didn’t mince words when it came to the FAA’s previous efforts to modernize the ATC, as he blamed the failed efforts for costing the country as much as $25 billion in loss of “economic output,” in addition to billions more each year. He called the current system “ancient, broken, antiquated, horrible,” and blamed the Obama administration for wasting $7 billion on trying to upgrade ATC. “Honestly, they didn’t know what the hell they were doing.”

The president said his new reform initiative is “supported by air traffic controllers themselves,” explaining that “they’re the ones who know the systems they want.” Under this plan, controllers will have “more financial security, professional opportunity and far superior equipment.”

He also said his reform policy, and especially the bidding process, is supported by airline executives, pilot unions, passengers advocates, cargo companies, and every former FAA chief operating officer, as well as three former transportation secretaries — Jim Burnley, Elizabeth Dole and Mary Peters — who joined him at the conference.

In regard to the bidding, Trump predicted there will be many companies involved, but only “one great company” will be able to “piece it all together.” This self-financing, nonprofit organization will “dramatically improve” the country’s ATC system, and it will do so, Trump said, without the need for taxpayer money.

"Under this new plan, the Federal Aviation Administration will focus firmly on what it does best: Safety. A separate non-profit entity will be charged with ensuring route efficiency, timely service, and a long-awaited reduction in delays," Trump added, while also briefly acknowledging Essential Air Services. "Our plan will also maintain support for rural communities and small airports, including airfields used by our Air National Guard units."

While he wouldn’t name the country, Trump said his team studied “one in particular” that has a “very, very good system.” However, he quickly noted, “ours is going to top it by a lot.” Trump said he has seen the new technology and “it is incredible.”

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