Trump proposes privatizing US air traffic control


Washington (AFP)

In the first salvo in a week-long push to overhaul America's infrastructure, President Donald Trump on Monday announced a plan to privatize the nation's air traffic control system.

In what he called an "air travel revolution," Trump promised the "really monumental reform" would deliver "cheaper, faster, and safer travel" as well as an economic boost that could be worth $25 billion to the economy.

"Our plan will get you where you need to go more quickly, more reliably, more affordable, and yes, for the first time in a long time, on time," Trump said in announcing the plan at the White House.

In fact the proposal to break off the air traffic function from the government's Federal Aviation Administration was first proposed during the Clinton administration, and was revived early last year in legislation introduced by Pennsylvania Republican Bill Shuster.

The plan would create a private non-profit corporation supported by user fees rather than taxes, a model used in many other countries, including Canada.

The FAA would retain its oversight of air travel safety, but its 30,000 air traffic controllers would move off the government's books.

DJ Gribbin, special assistant to the president for infrastructure, acknowledged that the proposal -- which National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) supported in its previous iteration -- "had been percolating in DC for decades, so it was naturally low hanging fruit from policy perspective."

For a Trump White House beset by investigation into its ties with Russia, which is also struggling to gain traction on other legislative efforts including promised tax reform -- which so far exists only as a one-page outline -- and the health care overhaul, low-hanging fruit could give them an easy win.