| WASHINGTON, March 16
WASHINGTON, March 16 President Donald Trump's
proposal to privatize U.S. air traffic control won the backing
of major U.S. airlines, but drew criticism from other groups
concerned smaller airlines and private companies would lose
Privatization advocates argue that spinning off air traffic
control from the Federal Aviation Administration would increase
efficiency and reduce costs, in part by avoiding the government
Opponents say the U.S. system, which handles 50,000 flights
a day, is so large that privatization would not cut costs, drive
up ticket costs and potentially create national security risks.
There also are concerns airlines would dominate the
private-company board and limit access to airports by business
Airlines for America, the industry trade organization
representing American Airlines Group Inc, United
Continental Holdings Inc, Southwest Airlines Co
and others, praised the proposal.
"This is a bold step that will lead to the governance and
funding reforms needed to move our air traffic control
infrastructure into the 21st century," said the group's Chief
Executive Officer Nicholas Calio.
National Business Aviation Association CEO Ed Bolen said the
group strongly opposes the proposal, arguing airlines would
essentially take run the board. "Small and mid-size towns that
rely on access to general aviation for everything from civil
services, to emergency support, to business access and more,
could have their access to airports and airspace threatened,"
The FAA said in a statement that it welcomes a discussion
about the best way to deliver and modernize air traffic
Representative Bill Shuster, a Republican who chairs the
House Transportation Committee and backs separate air traffic
control, praised Trump's proposal.
"By removing the ATC function from the FAA, Americans will
see a more efficient system, flight times decrease, on-time
departures increase, emissions reduced, and 21st century
technology deployed to guide our planes from gate to gate,"
The top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee, Bill
Nelson, said the proposal will not be approved.
"Scrapping our nation’s air traffic control system is an
idea that died in the Senate last year, and it’ll die again this
year," Nelson said. "This proposal would undermine the strong
partnership between the FAA and Department of Defense that is so
vital to our national security."
It could take a strong presidential push for the
privatization effort. Last year, it failed to get even enough
support from Republican members for a vote on the House floor.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)