FAA Willing to Consider Private Air Traffic Control System

By Alan Levin | February 26, 2016

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration is reviewing a House Republican plan to spin off the nation’s air- traffic control system to a nonprofit corporation and hasn’t rejected the idea.

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, speaking Tuesday at the Singapore Airshow, said the agency hasn’t yet reached a decision on the plan that passed the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Thursday.

Huerta said the government is “open to having a conversation” on the future of air traffic so long as it promotes safety, enhances development of new technology and guarantees long-term funding.

“Clearly there is a lot of controversy around it, and so what we are really looking forward is where there might be opportunities to foster not only a consensus among the airlines but a consensus among all the users of the system and a bipartisan consensus on what’s really best for the industry,” he said.

Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster, a Pennsylvania Republican, included the measure stripping the FAA of its air traffic function in a bill authorizing agency operations for the next six years. The change is needed to insulate FAA from political pressures that have hindered its efficiency and to ensure it receives adequate funding without threats from political gridlock, Shuster has said.

No Position

“At this point, we haven’t taken a position on the current proposal,” Huerta said. “We’ve been evaluating it. There are a lot of things that are in there, there are a lot of questions that we have and we are going to look at it.”

“The FAA administrator’s comments were made on behalf of the FAA as a federal agency and not on behalf of the administration,” the agency said later in an e-mailed statement. The Obama administration hasn’t taken a stand on the proposal.

Opponents say it would be a mistake to strip Congress of its ability to oversee the agency.

The plan has been opposed by most Democrats, and House Republican leaders on Friday signaled that they were putting off a vote on the bill because of disagreements over the measure. The FAA’s funding expires on March 31, so lawmakers may have to pass a temporary extension allowing the agency to function while it decides how to handle the controversial proposal.

(With assistance from Anurag Kotoky.)

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