THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: “You’ve Been Cleared for a Faster Landing”
An evening stranded on an O’Hare airport runway is enough to make anyone mad, and on Monday Donald Trump responded with a plan for improving American air travel. The President endorsed spinning off air-traffic control from the Federal Aviation Administration, a decades-old idea that would improve passenger experience and safety. Mr. Trump announced principles for converting air-traffic control into a nonprofit. The new entity would be governed by a board of directors, including representatives for airlines, unions, airports and others. Instead of taxes, the outfit would be funded by user fees, which is how Canada has financed air-traffic services since 1996. The outline makes small tweaks to House Transportation Chairman Bill Shuster’s proposal that stalled last year. … FAA regulates itself, so a separation would end this conflict-of-interest and allow the agency to focus on safety and certification. This reform is endorsed by the International Civil Aviation Organization, and only the most cynical on the left could claim a spinoff threatens passenger safety. Democrats will say Mr. Trump is auctioning off air traffic to big business, but the principles are explicit that the entity must be a nonprofit. The outline gives airlines only two seats on the 13-member board. … Still, the more remarkable feat is how many in the industry agree on the basics: The airline trade group supports a spinoff, and last year so did the air-traffic controller’s union, which said it will evaluate the specifics of any bill. Former FAA chief officers and Transportation Secretaries also signed on. That’s a testament to how inefficient the current system is.
USA TODAY: “President Trump’s right. Privatize air traffic control.”
Most everyone driving a car today has instant access to apps with GPS to navigate the quickest routes through traffic. But when these same people get on a jetliner, controllers are still using radar, a system that’s been around since World War II and can’t take full advantage of GPS to help planes take the most efficient routes through the skies. Something’s wrong with this picture, and it’s the failure of the Federal Aviation Administration to make good on decades of promises to modernize air traffic control with advanced satellite-based technology in a system called “NextGen.” On Monday, President Trump endorsed getting the job done by creating a private, non-profit corporation that would apply business principles and provide a steady stream of financing. This change would free air traffic control modernization from two major sources of delay: the bureaucratic process used to select contractors, and Congress’ crazy, on-again, off-again budget process that disrupts long-term planning. … The idea of putting a non-profit company in charge — a plan most of the major airlines have been promoting for years — has considerable merit. (The FAA would remain in charge of safety functions.) Other countries that have successfully privatized their air traffic control systems include Canada, France, Germany and the United Kingdom.
THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE: “Getting Washington out of the air traffic control business”
Weather causes some flight delays and disruptions. Others have a bureaucratic origin. The nation’s air traffic control system, while safe, is gummed up by antiquated technology. American Airlines CEO Doug Parker said in a recent interview that a flight from Dallas to Philadelphia takes about 30 minutes longer than in 1979 because the system is “broken.” There is a fix, endorsed Monday by President Donald Trump: Reshape the Federal Aviation Administration by shifting air traffic control operations to a separate, nonprofit corporation. This new entity would fund itself by charging fees instead of having to beg Congress for money. With a more predictable revenue stream, it could do a much better job investing in new technology. The FAA, meanwhile, would continue to enforce safety regulations and provide grant money to airports. Trump hopes to put momentum behind legislation circling in Congress. The best argument for this change is the new organization would — finally — be able to provide proper funding for NextGen, the long-awaited, $40 billion air traffic system upgrade. NextGen involves switching from cumbersome radar and static-prone radios to satellite-based GPS tracking of aircraft and digital communications. This is a smarter way to fly because planes could be routed along more precise flight paths. Planes could fly safely while spaced closer together, too. The result: Passengers get to their destinations more quickly.
THE WASHINGTON POST: “Trump throws his support behind a good idea”
[T]he idea has a bipartisan pedigree going back a quarter-century to the Democratic administration of President Bill Clinton. Then-Vice President Al Gore’s 1993 government-reinvention project, the National Performance Review, recommended creating a government-owned air traffic control corporation supported by user fees and governed by stakeholders. Except for the precise ownership structure, that’s essentially what Mr. Shuster’s bill proposes. Like Mr. Gore’s version, it would retain a robust safety regulation role for the FAA; whether nominally public or private, the main advantage of a separate, self-governing nonprofit entity is to end the constant political bickering in Congress over the FAA’s budget, thus freeing the entity to pursue much-needed technological modernization without worrying about government shutdowns and other hassles.