We’re not sure a proposal by President Donald Trump to turn over management of the nation’s air traffic control system to a private entity is the best solution.
Details are sparse about the plan, but the Trump administration has said the change is needed to modernize the system and save money.
Right now, the biggest issue with air traffic control, administered by Federal Aviation Administration, is that the equipment needs to be modernized. FAA has struggled with attempts to modernize the system and now is working on plans to replace older radar tracking with a system that uses GPS technology.
Safety, while it must be the top priority, isn’t a major concern. While nothing is 100 percent safe, airspace in the United States is among the safest in the world.
Rural communities and smaller airports are afraid Trump’s proposal would benefit big city airports and commercial airlines, and cause hardship for smaller, rural entities.
They worry a private organization would finance the air traffic control system through user fees, which would impact smaller groups more than bigger ones. Such a scenario could cause problems for many of Northwest Oklahoma’s airports, including Enid Woodring Regional Airport.
As an example, Andrew Moore, executive director of National Agricultural Aviation Association, whose members include aerial crop dusting and firefighting interests, said a $100 fee for takeoffs and landings — which has been proposed in the past, but hasn’t specifically been addressed in Trump’s proposal — could devastate the aerial crop dusting industry. He said some of those planes take off and land 60-100 times a day during their peak seasons.
Trump’s plan isn’t new. Republican Congressman Bill Shuster, from western Pennsylvania, sponsored legislation last year to turn over the air traffic control system to a private, nonprofit entity that would be overseen by a 13-member board, including aviation experts and airline representatives. His efforts failed in Congress.
Shuster said his bill provided that no special aviation interest would have a majority on the board, and small town airports did not need to worry about being marginalized.
As we said, there are precious few details available about Trump’s plan. Until we hear more, we would advise officials to proceed with caution.
We’re not sure a private organization could handle the situation better than FAA is doing now.
Or, as Moore, of the National Agricultural Aviation Association, said: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”