The White House says the plan will be safer and cheaper for passengers, but not everyone agrees.
President Donald Trump laid out his vision for overhauling and privatizing the air traffic control system in a press conference Monday.
The new plan would separate air traffic control from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in a reorganization that the Trump administration claims will improve safety and allow for quicker adoption of new technology. It is part of a larger plan, the White House says, to stimulate infrastructure across the country.
“Our plan will get you where you need to go more quickly, more reliably, and more affordably,” Trump said. “We live in a modern age, yet our air traffic control system is stuck painfully in the past.”
U.S airlines have been pushing for the change for decades, saying that the FAA has taken too long to modernize the air traffic system. The new system would move from radar and voice communications to satellite and digital communications called NextGen.
A separate, non-profit entity would run the air traffic control system that would also switch from taxing passengers to instead imposing a user fee system, saving passengers time and money, according to the White House. The Trump administration also said that the new system would be safer, arguing that separating air traffic control and the FAA would allow for better oversight.
“It has been proven in other countries around the world,” DJ Gribbin, a special assistant to the president for infrastructure, told reporters on a call. “The enhanced safety advancements come from the separation of the FAA and the air traffic control system."
Some Republican and Democratic members of Congress have criticized the plan in the past, fearing that U.S. airlines would prioritize their own interests over those of air traffic facilities and their 30,000 employees nation-wide, the Associated Press reported.
Critics of the plan have also questioned the White House’s assertion that the plan will make passengers safer, pointing to the airlines’ history of computer system failures and the risk that goes along with adopting a complex new satellite system.
The announcement was part of week in which the president plans to announce his infrastructure projects around the country. Trump is planning to travel to Ohio and Kentucky later in the week to stress the importance of waterways before heading back to Washington to discuss railways with the Transportation Department, The Washington Post reported.