Last updated: 02:23 PM ET, Tue June 16 2015

Lawmaker Wants To Privatize Air Traffic Control

Airlines & Airports | Rich Thomaselli | June 16, 2015

Lawmaker Wants To Privatize Air Traffic Control

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Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Penn.), the chairman of the House Transportation Committee, told the Washington Aero Club on Monday that he will introduce legislation aimed at privatizing air traffic control and taking it out of the government’s hands.

It’s not a shocker.

Such debate has been going on for more than a year and, in a bit of a rarity on the Hill, the idea of having private firms handle air traffic operations instead of the Federal Aviation Administration has drawn bipartisan support as well as the backing of the powerful airline lobby group, Airlines For America.

"It's questionable whether our [air traffic] system is capable of just sustaining current demands — delays already cost passengers and the economy $30 billion a year,” Shuster told the Aero Club, according to the Associated Press. “But, there's no question whether this system can handle the growth that's coming. It can't."

In a Transportation Committee hearing last year, Nicholas Calio, chief executive officer of Airlines for America, said it was time to bring about “transformational change” and referenced Canada’s air traffic control system when he said, “We just might find our answers outside the U.S.”

The Wall Street Journal noted that U.S. aviation industry and administration officials are equally intrigued by Canada’s fully privatized system, which is not funded by the government.

Shuster said the system can ill afford the effects of air traffic control being part of the government, particularly when, two years ago, air traffic was hampered by budget cuts that resulted in some controllers being furloughed.

Privatization "will make flying and the time it takes to get from one place to another much better than it is now because it will give us a modern air traffic control system," Calio said, according to the Associated Press.

Paul Rinaldi, president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, said his group is keeping an open mind about the proposal and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) said he needed information on "a number of serious concerns about the constitutionality, the national security implications, and the logistical challenges of separating the system."

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