Poll: 55 percent of voters oppose FAA privatization plan

Poll: 55 percent of voters oppose FAA privatization plan

Fifty-five percent of voters are opposed to a Republican plan to privatize some facets of the nation’s air traffic control system, according to a new poll released on Thursday. 

GOP leaders in the House have pushed to create a private air traffic control organization that would be separate from the FAA as the agency struggles to meet deadlines for upgrading the flight navigation system. 

The poll, conducted by the Global Strategy Group on behalf of the Air Care Alliance, League of Rural Voters and Alliance for Aviation Across America, found that 55 percent of voters oppose the idea of "privatizing the ATC functions of the FAA 'by taking it from the FAA and turning it over to a non-profit corporation.'”

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Only 29 percent of voters say they approve of the plan, although 51 percent of voters say they support other forms of government privatization, according to the poll. 

Republican leaders in the House have signaled that they will include at least some form of the air traffic control privatization plan in a must-pass bill to extend the FAA's funding, which is currently set to expire at the end of the month. 

The FAA has been planning for years to discard the World War II-era radar technology that has been used to manage airplane traffic for generations, switching to its NextGen system. But the conversion has hit turbulence amid missed deadlines and rampant budget-cutting in Washington in recent years.

Republicans have argued that private companies could better handle the technological demands of the air traffic control conversion.

The aviation industry poll released Thursday found that 67 percent of voters think the FAA does a good job managing the nation's airplane traffic. 

The FAA has said the NextGen system will ease congestion in the airspace around busy U.S. airports by streamlining the arrivals and departures of flights. It also argues that navigating flights more efficiently will have environmental benefits, because airplanes will use less gas and produce less smog.

The catch is that the NextGen system is expected to cost about $40 billion to complete, and an original 2020 deadline for implementing it nationwide is rapidly approaching.