Delta to feds: Don't 'outsource' air traffic control

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Delta Airlines is warning lawmakers not to "outsource" the nation's air traffic control system by separating it from the Federal Aviation Administration as Congress prepares to debate a funding bill for the agency. 

The company said Wednesday of the plan from Republicans on the House Transportation Committee to create a new air traffic control organization that Congress should not "outsource these public functions to a Congressionally-sanctioned monopoly controlled by private interests." 

"I want to be clear where Delta stands on this issue. We oppose privatizing U.S. air traffic control or any other attempt to remove air traffic control from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)," Delta CEO Richard Anderson wrote in a letter to leaders of the House Transportation Committee that was released by the company on Wednesday. 

"It is unnecessary and unwise. American air traffic control works because it works for the American people - and we should keep it that way,' he continued.  

Lawmakers in the House are expected to unveil their proposed FAA bill on Wednesday. 

Republicans on the chamber's Transportation Committee have been pushing to create a new nongovernmental organization that would take over air traffic control from the FAA. The agency's funding is set to expire on March 31, and GOP leaders are expected to include provisions to set up the separate air traffic control organization in the upcoming aviation funding measure.

GOP leaders in the House have said the proposed nongovernmental entity could better manage commercial and private jet flights in the nation's airspace.

"After examining various models, I believe we need to establish a federally chartered, fully independent not-for-profit corporation to operate and modernize our [air traffic control] services," House Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) said during a speech last June at the Aero Club of Washington. 

Most of the other major airlines are supporting the plan to create a new air traffic control organization that would be separate the FAA.

The group that lobbies in Washington for most major carriers besides Delta has rejected the idea that separating air traffic control from the FAA would amount to a privatization of the nation's flight navigation system. 

"Proponents of reform advocate for a not-for-profit organization that will be overseen by the FAA and governed by a board inclusive of all stakeholders, including employee unions, general aviation and private fliers, and passengers," said Airlines for America, which Delta was a member of until last year. 

"That’s the way air traffic services are run in most of the rest of the world," the group added in a recent statement. "We want to see more air traffic controllers hired. We want to make the system even more safe. And most importantly, we want to make flying better for the traveling public. Members of Congress should want the same thing.” 

Delta's Anderson said in the letter released on Wednesday that his company has "yet to see an accounting of the costs of privatization or a convincing, concrete case for the benefits.

"There is simply no compelling reason to change such a critical system that works so well," eh wrote. 

"Our nation's air traffic control system is too important - to public safety, economic growth and national security - and working too well for such an experiment to be prudent," Anderson concluded.