President Trump on Monday unveiled a plan to hand over control of the US air-traffic control system to a non-profit corporation as he kicked off a week-long push for his infrastructure plan.
The proposal, designed to lower costs and improve the efficiency of the system that oversees flights, would transfer about 15,000 controllers and thousands of other managers and technical workers to a new government-sanctioned corporation.
“We’re proposing reduced wait times, increased route efficiency, and far fewer delays. Our plan will get you where you need to go more quickly, more reliably, more affordably, and yes, for the first time in a long time, on time,” Trump said.
He also slammed the Obama administration for spending billions in what he said was a failed effort to upgrade the system.
“They didn’t know what the hell they were doing,” he said.
In an attempt to gain support for a plan that fell short in Congress last year, the White House said the 13-member board of directors for the new corporation should be made up of appointees from industry stakeholder groups.
Critics had charged the proposal last year gave too much power to airlines.
The plan is part of the White House’s goal to transform US infrastructure.
Later this week Trump is expected to travel to Ohio to garner support for his strategy — a key campaign promise — to channel $1 trillion into the nation’s roads, bridges, inland waterways and other public facilities.
The proposal is also designed to shrink government and reduce taxes, said DJ Gribbin, a special assistant to the president who gave a briefing on the plan Monday morning.
“All of those elements line up very nicely with the president’s view” of how to run the government, Gribbin told Bloomberg.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer issued a statement blasting the Trump infrastructure plan, saying it would impose “tolls from one end of America to the other.”
The focus on privatization will lead to “less construction and far fewer jobs,” Schumer said in a statement.
Trump’s air-traffic control proposal will be based largely on legislation introduced in 2016 by Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, according to a White House official.
Trump will sign a decision memo, and a letter to Congress on the principles in his air-traffic control plan at the White House Monday.
It would create a new user fee on aircraft using the system to replace current taxes on aviation fuel and airline tickets.
Critics of the air-traffic plan have said it would jeopardize small airports by giving too much power to airlines and large hubs.
American Airlines Group Inc., the world’s largest carrier, said it looked forward to working with the Trump administration “to make air travel cleaner, safer and more efficient.”
“The antiquated system we rely on today is inefficient and causes thousands of avoidable flight delays,” Shannon Gilson, a spokeswoman for American, said in a statement to the news agency.
“If we aren’t able to modernize and innovate using the latest technology, the impacts to the traveling public will continue to grow.”
Some former high-level FAA managers also favor the privatization plan, which is opposed by many Democratic lawmakers and private aviation groups. The opponents say the current system works well, and they fear the transition would be a setback to the introduction of new technology.
About 60 countries, including Canada and the UK, have gone to similar semi-private management of their air-traffic networks.