Oklahoma City’s congressional representative didn’t mince words Saturday when describing President Donald Trump’s plan to privatize the nation’s air traffic control towers.
“I think it’s the dumbest thing we’ve ever thought about doing,” said U.S. Rep. Steve Russell, whose constituency includes the FAA’s Mike Monroney Center, a facility near Will Rogers World Airport where the nation’s air traffic controllers go to train.
“Even if I didn’t agree this is a dumb idea, I’ve got 6,500 employees at the Mike Monroney Center who do understand it.”
On Monday, Trump said the air traffic control system needed a makeover, one that would improve safety and reduce wait times.
The plan is supported by commercial airliners, but Russell, a Republican, said privatizing it could lead to user fees for taking off and landing that will price both younger and older general aviation pilots out of flying.
Russell also said it will negatively affect the nation’s defense in a time when the U.S. Air Force is having trouble finding hopeful pilots.
“I realize I’ll be swimming upstream on this issue because everybody, like a pack of dogs lapping up antifreeze, thinks this is a good idea,” he said, drawing laughs from newspaper executives at the Oklahoma Press Association convention, where he and other federal lawmakers answered questions.
Russell said there will be an accounting in Congress after the towers are privatized because the plan will fail.
“We’ll have less safety, reduction in pilots learning to train and a major unfunded liability impact for national defense,” said Russell. “Then there will be people like us with bony fingers and red faces going, ‘how did you let this fail?’ Look in the mirror. If we let this thing happen, it’s going to weaken everything we do good in the aerospace and defense industry.”