Several former Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) officials are throwing their weight behind a contentious effort to separate air traffic control systems from the federal government.
The past three chief operating officers for the FAA called on Congress to create a “reliable, robust 21st century system” by putting a nonprofit corporation in charge of the nation’s air navigation system, according to a letter released by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Tuesday.
President Trump has also endorsed the spinoff proposal, which has been championed by most of the Republicans on the House Transportation panel.
The letter is signed by Russell G. Chew, Henry Krakowski and David Grizzle.
“This is not about politics, it is about policy,” the officials wrote. “The U.S. no longer has the most modern equipment, the most efficient airplane routings, or the best technology of any of the world’s air traffic control providers.
“We urge Congress to take action to preserve the FAA’s safety oversight of air traffic control while moving the operation and funding of air traffic control to a federally chartered, nonprofit organization that would be governed and funded by the stakeholders and users of our nation’s air aviation system.”
A plan to break apart the FAA was included in a long-term reauthorization of the agency last year but stalled on the House floor amid opposition from Democrats and GOP tax-writers and appropriators.
The majority on the Transportation Committee touted the “strong support” of the former FAA heads in a press release on Tuesday.
Democrats on the committee, however, were quick to point out that the officials are also former airline executives: Chew served as president and COO of JetBlue Airways, Krakowski held various senior management positions at United Airlines and Grizzle has worked at Continental Airlines and its affiliates.
Transferring air traffic control to a nonprofit corporation has been a top priority for most of the nation’s major airlines.
“It’s no surprise that they would support proposals to hand over the public airspace and assets to the airlines and their allies,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), the ranking member on the Transportation panel.
“This letter does nothing to answer the serious questions raised by both Democrats and Republicans in the House and the Senate about air traffic control privatization. ... If proponents are going to use their resumes to try to distract from the fact that this plan faces bipartisan opposition, they should at least disclose their ties to the special interests that stand to benefit from privatization.”