(TNS) — After decades of debate and failed attempts at reform, an effort to transform the country’s air traffic control system — which handles nearly 44,000 daily flights — is facing the most favorable conditions for takeoff it’s had in years.
A proposal that would spin off the federally-managed air traffic control system into a private, not-for-profit corporation is working its way through the House of Representatives, with a vote possible as early as this week.
The plan is widely supported by commercial airlines, including American Airlines and Southwest, who argue changing management is key to speeding up the modernization of the system’s aging infrastructure, which in turn can improve efficiency and reduce traffic congestion as more and more people take to the skies each year.
It’s also got key backers in President Donald Trump, who made privatizing the “broken” air traffic control system a central part of his infrastructure proposal unveiled last month, and Pennsylvania Congressman Bill Shuster, who’s championed the bill as chairman of the House transportation committee.
But passage of the proposal is far from certain, with critics warning that it would concentrate too much power in the hands of the airlines and Democrats worried about privatizing a major piece of government infrastructure.
As the debate heats up, here’s what to know about the current air traffic system, why airlines want to privatize it and why critics are urging caution:
Air traffic control today
At any given time, there are as many as 5,000 aircraft navigating the skies over the United States with the help of some of the Federal Aviation Authority’s 14,000 air traffic controllers.
The airspace is the most complex and…