President Donald Trump acknowledged last week’s National Air Traffic Control Day with a pledge to continue modernization of the national ATC system, but stopped short of reiterating his platform for overhaul of the ATC organization. As recently as last month, Trump renewed his call to remove the organization from the FAA as part of a larger government reorganization proposal.
That call drew jeers from the general aviation community, which pointed to “a large and diverse chorus of opposition to the idea of privatizing our air traffic control system” and further said, “Instead of focusing precious time and resources on what amounts to nothing more than a distraction to the aviation community, the Administration needs to support a long-term FAA bill, like those passed by the House of Representatives and now pending in the Senate.”
Trump’s plan also was met with a Congress that has little interest in acting on it—at least for now. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has noted the obstacles such a proposal faces on Capitol Hill but also stressed last month that, “This idea is going to come back."
As for Trump’s most recent message, released on July 6, he recognized the “dedicated professionals…for the critical role they play in air travel across our country and around the globe.” In 2017, controllers managed movement of aircraft carrying more than 840 million passengers and 39 billion pounds of freight, he said. “Given the important responsibility air traffic controllers have to ensure the safety of millions of travelers and tons of cargo, their vital role in transportation safety and our economy cannot be overstated,” he said. “That is why my Administration continues to pursue the modernization of our nation’s air traffic control services.”
Trump added that “targeted investments” in NextGen will improve services and ensure controllers have the technology they need. “These efforts will ensure we can continue to efficiently transport goods in the new economy, and further improve the flying experience for the nation’s air travelers,” he said.