Former Reagan Transportation Secretary James Burnley was in Sioux Falls Friday, pushing for privatization of the Nation’s air traffic control system.
The U.S. House is working on legislation that would transition America’s system to a non-government system similar to how air traffic control works in Canada. President Trump also supports privatization.
Burnley gave KELO Radio’s Greg Belfrage Show a startling example of how far behind the times the U.S. system is.
“The controller in the country the plane’s leaving has to call on the telephone to the controller in the country the plane is going to. That’s because our system can’t do it electronically.” He showed Greg the paper script that U.S. controllers have to use.
Burnley urged South Dakotans to get in touch with John Thune, Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, because the committee’s version of the FAA bill does not contain a transition to the Canadian model.
“The question is when you go to the conference between the House and the Senate, what happens? What’s in that final bill?, and that’s where Senator Thune will play a critical role.”
Critics of privatization worry about unintended consequences, such as the impact on smaller airports, user fees, and the potential for the airlines gaining too much control of the national airspace. They also argue there could be a loss of Congressional oversight. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association opposes privatization.
Burnley was then-President Reagan’s transportation chief from 1987 to 1989. He is currently a top lawyer in Washington, D.C., who represents a variety of transportation clients.