Now Travelers Should Care That Trump Is Inclined To Privatize Air Traffic

Top airline executives got a sympathetic hearing from Donald Trump on Thursday when they met with the new president at the White House to discuss issues of concern to the air travel and air cargo industry. But as with every other issue into which Trump dips a toe, offense soon followed.

This time it is the Federal Aviation Administration whose feelings were hurt when the president characterized the air space through which 2 million people move every day of the year, as “totally out of whack” — and he did not stop there.

“Is the gentleman who’s the head of the FAA right now not a pilot?” he asked referring to Michael P. Huerta, whose term as administrator of the FAA ends in 2018.  “I’d like to find out because I think it maybe would be good to have a pilot — like a really good pilot that knows what’s going on.”

To the criticism both veiled (should Administrator Huerta go) and obvious, (the FAA had totally screwed up modernizing the nation’s air traffic control system) the public information office shot back a few hours later.

In a brief but unmistakable defense of its work, the FAA recounted how it had spent $7 billion over the last seven years to incorporate new technology known as NextGen, into the control of the nation’s airspace.

“NextGen is one of the most ambitious infrastructure and modernization projects in U.S. history,” the FAA’s spokeswoman Laura Brown said.

Airlines and other air space users have been participating in the decision-making, so, I think what Brown is saying is, if the introduction of all that fancy-pants technology has been difficult, there’s plenty of blame to go around.

“The FAA invited airline stakeholders to help develop the blueprint for NextGen and they continue to have a seat at the table in setting NextGen priorities and investments through the NextGen Advisory Committee,” Brown said.

The airlines, with the exception of Delta Air Lines, are agitating with Trump and anyone else who will listen, for the privatization of the nation’s air traffic control system which has been a federal government responsibility since it was founded in the thirties.

Air traffic control keeps airplanes separated from each other in the sky as well as coordinating planes on the ground and not just the airliners with which we are most familiar but business jets, emergency medical aviation and Sunday flyers.