Captain 'Sully' jumps into fight over air traffic control

Retired Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger is adding his voice to a growing chorus of opposition against President Trump’s push to privatize air traffic control.

In a new video from the Alliance for Aviation Across America, Sullenberger — the former US Airways pilot who famously made an emergency landing in the Hudson river in 2009 — outlined his concerns with a proposal to transfer the country’s air navigation system to a private nonprofit corporation.

The idea is under consideration in the House and has been formally endorsed by the White House.

“I know what works and what doesn’t. Our air traffic control system is the best, the safest in the world,” Sullenberger says. “Why would we give such an important valuable national asset to the largest airlines — the same airlines ... who often put expedience and cost-reduction ahead of the safety and welfare of others?”

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The House included the spinoff plan in a reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), whose legal authority expires at the end of September. But House leadership, apparently lacking the time and the votes, did not bring the bill to the floor for a vote before the August recess.

Sullenberger’s opinion could hold some sway in the heated debate over whether Congress should privatize air traffic control, with lawmakers often holding up his stance on other aviation safety issues.

Sullenberger, who has been a general aviation pilot for over 50 years, has been speaking out strongly against the spinoff model in recent weeks. But he now is ramping up his opposition and actively urging pilots and others to join him in the fight against the plan.

In the latest video, Sullenberger gets at the heart of why opponents are worried about the proposal: fear over losing access to airspace. He argues that the proposal would allow big airlines to control the cost and rules of access, which would leave regional and rural airports behind.

“That’s really the danger in my mind,” he says. “What we really need is someone overseeing our air travel system whose motivation is doing what’s best for America and Americans, and not for their own industry or themselves.”

But supporters of the spinoff plan point out that the version under consideration in the House would ensure more diversity on the corporation’s board of directors, while general aviation users would be exempt from any fees imposed by the new entity.