Last updated: 02:44 PM ET, Thu January 19 2017

DOT Secretary Nominee Open to Privatizing Air Traffic Control

Airlines & Airports Rich Thomaselli January 12, 2017

DOT Secretary Nominee Open to Privatizing Air Traffic Control

PHOTO: The future of air traffic control could be decided by the Trump administration. (Photo courtesy Flickr/Glenn Beltz

Elaine Chao, nominated by President-elect Donald Trump to become the 18th U.S. Secretary of Transportation, said in her confirmation hearings that she is “open to all ideas” regarding of privatizing air traffic control and taking it away from Federal Aviation Administration responsibility.

"I am open to all ideas," Chao said at a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee hearing on Wednesday regarding her nomination. "I am cognizant of those who are in favor it. I am cognizant of those who have safety concerns."

The debate to privatize the nation’s air traffic control system and hand it over to a not-for-profit corporation has raged for years, picking up momentum in the last year or two as lawmakers pondered whether to include a provision in the overall FAA reauthorization bill.

It was sidelined last year and not included in the reauthorization funding.

There’s no debate as to the fundamental need for improvement to the nation’s air traffic control system, but who will oversee it is in question. The FAA has limited resources, but opponents of privatization say leaving it to a corporation and essentially giving airlines more leverage would also prove to be harmful.

READ MORE: What Past Roles Tell Us About DOT Secretary Nominee Elaine Chao

Chao did not tip her hand either way regarding the issue. In fact said the Trump administration has not yet taken a position on privatization of air traffic control and will do so only after further due diligence and tracking the pulse of a “national consensus.”