According to U.S. President Donald Trump, the current system of air-traffic control in the United States, which is under the management of the Federal Aviation Administration, is broken and antiquated. The president has consequently proposed that the system be privatized by having some of the government agency’s responsibilities transferred to a not-for-profit private organization. This was an idea that had originally been proposed by the Ronald Reagan administration two decades ago.
By privatizing air-traffic control, about 66% of the agency’s workforce consisting of more than 13,000 air-traffic controllers and thousands of technicians would be removed from the federal government’s payroll. The private entity would then be charged with directing airplanes in the air and on the ground. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration would, however, continue its responsibility of overseeing the system.
According to the proponents of the idea, privatizing air-traffic control will make flying safer. This is not quite true since the air safety record is determined not by the governance structure of the air-traffic control system by rather with the how modern airplanes are built. Also, the United States has one of the highest flying safety records in the world. Even though the U.S. has one of the busiest air traffic in the world fatal crashes have been rare and far between recently. The most recent fatal crash involving a commercial passenger plane happened back in 2009.
Air safety has also been heightened by the design of the planes which has greatly improved compared to some decades ago. One enhancement in manufacturing which has resulted in a better safety record has been in propulsion mechanics. This has reduced the risk of engine failure greatly. Advances in structural engineering has also meant that the corrosion of the bodies of the airplanes no longer poses a risk.
Proponents of privatizing air-traffic control also argue that the current funding method places it at risk of political gridlock. This is because even though the FAA gets its money from the fees and taxes that are charged to flyers, Congress must give its approval before the federal government agency can get the money from the trust fund it is deposited in. During the partial shutdown of the government in 2013, FAA employees were some of the civil servants who were furloughed. Proponents of privatizing air-traffic control argue that a similar situation would be avoided if the system was privatized.
Opponents of privatization, on the other hand, argue that small airports especially in rural communities would suffer from allocation of resources by the private entity since their base is tiny. Trump’s proposal will, however, require congressional approval.