ATM Modernization, Regulation

Trump Signs Initiative for ATC Privatization, Emphasizes Equipment Modernization

By S.L. Fuller | June 5, 2017

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U.S. President Donald Trump and the White House’s budget blueprint already outlined Trump’s intention for the privatization of national air traffic control (ATC). President Trump officially announced to the public his ATC reform initiative and signed it Monday.

“Welcome to the beginning of a new era of American infrastructure,” said U.S. VP Mike Pence in his introduction.

Trump outlined a plan to remove ATC from the FAA’s jurisdiction. Instead, there would be one, self-financing nonprofit at the helm. This way, he said, the FAA could focus on safety. The bidding process would also see reform, and air traffic controllers would have more money, opportunity and the equipment, Trump said.

“We will launch this air travel revolution by modernizing the outdated system of air traffic control,” Trump said. This was the cornerstone of the new initiative. He did not mention NextGen, but said that this initiative would make obsolete, in particular, ground-based radio systems and using paper to track en route aircraft.

Trump said his team had been studying other nations while developing the initiative. There is one country, which he left unnamed, that he said had a “very good system.” His goal was to, not only match that system, but also surpass it — that country being Canada. The U.S.’ current system is “ancient, broken, antiquated, horrible [and] doesn’t work. Other than that, it’s quite good,” he joked.

U.S. Transportation Dept. Secretary Elaine Chao followed Trump's sentiments with her own. She echoed his emphasis on equipment modernization, saying that this initiative would usher in a “new era of enhanced safety and performances in the skies and spur the adoption of state-of-the-art air traffic control technology.” The initiative, she continued, would accelerate the deployment of new technology.

Both Trump and Chao emphasized that ATC privatization would be beneficial to airlines, air traffic controllers, pilots, passengers and taxpayers alike. Trump noted that the initiative takes into consideration small airports, rural locations and airfields.

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