The FAA’s air traffic control program routes more than 85,000 commercial, private and military flights every day across the United States. But the system is stressed and the FAA says it needs to hire 1,000 new air traffic controllers annually to end a current shortage and keep it from growing worse. However, President Donald Trump says that would be a waste of money under the current air traffic control system and will only allow the problems to persist.
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The President, on Monday, proposed a total overhaul that would privatize air traffic control in the United States. "The previous administration spent over $7 billion trying to upgrade the system and totally failed. Honestly, they didn't know what the hell they were doing, a total waste of money, $7 billion plus. It’s time to join the future,” he said during a speech at the White House.
Fifty other countries have already done what the president proposes and the administration points to Canada as an example of success. Under the President’s plan, the FAA would continue to regulate air safety but a new not-for-profit company would manage air traffic control and won’t need any taxpayer funds. This, according to the President, “…will dramatically improve America’s air traffic control system by turning it over to a self-financing nonprofit organization.”
FOX Business first exposed problems with the FAA Air Traffic Control System in its investigative report Trouble in The Skies. The FAA changed its hiring requirements to recruit more air traffic controllers, but critics accused the agency of dumbing down its standards to fill slots with unqualified candidates. FOX Business uncovered evidence that FAA employees were also helping potential air traffic control applicants cheat on a key exam to get into the program.
Trump’s plan mirrors some principles proposed by Rep. Bill Schuster (R-PA), chair the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, who has championed privatizing air traffic control for several years.
President Trump wants to transfer air traffic control operations from the FAA to the new private company within a designated three-year period. The President and chairman Schuster promise a privatized system would make flying more reliable and more affordable with far fewer delays. But the administration, while making several promises, is short on details. Currently the FAA recruits and trains air traffic controllers. The administration is not sure if the FAA or the proposed private company would be responsible for training future air traffic controllers. DJ Gribbin, Special Assistant to the President for Infrastructure says, “…who's training, is a level of detail that kind of goes beyond today's announcement. We're going to continue to work with the Hill and with the Air Traffic Controllers Union on this.”
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