Larsen Quizzes U.S. Transportation Secretary on Trump Plan to Privatize Air Traffic Control

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Rep. Rick Larsen (WA-02), the top-Ranking Democrat on the House Aviation Subcommittee, today helped lead a hearing on reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). During the hearing, Larsen was highly critical of President Trump’s plan to privatize America’s air traffic control (ATC) system and had tough questions for hearing witness, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao.

Watch Larsen’s opening statement HERE.

Watch Larsen’s Q&A with Secretary Chao HERE.

Larsen and Chao’s exchange focused on the administration’s plan to transfer existing assets to a new, privatized entity free of charge and without remuneration to the government. Larsen pressed the Secretary, asking whether the national assets of the air traffic control system have zero value.

Secretary Chao: “they are not worth zero of course. But that has to be worked out.”

Larsen responded: “well if they are not worth zero [dollars] then it doesn’t seem that we should transfer [it] free of charge to the corporation….I don’t understand, perhaps you could get back to us, how the administration sees the fact that the U.S. taxpayer has put money into the system and then that should just be transferred to a not-for-profit or non-governmental corporation – that makes no sense at all.”

Larsen has led Democratic opposition to the plan to privatize the Federal ATC system, and consistently raising concerns about the challenges and unanswered questions involved in proposed privatization plans.

Yesterday, Larsen and Rep. Peter DeFazio (OR-4) introduced the Aviation Funding Stability Act of 2017, legislation aimed at strengthening and speeding up Federal Aviation Administration reforms and modernization of the air traffic control system through NextGen initiatives. This bill would help ensure investments in the U.S. aviation system are not subject to Congressional inefficiencies and would streamline the acquisition of NextGen technology, equipment certification, and ATC management.

Earlier this week, President Trump announced a plan that would privatize ATC, leave the FAA’s critical safety oversight processes without a funding source, and jeopardize aviation safety by subjecting the remaining FAA to Congressional shutdowns, budget cuts, and sequestration. Under the Trump plan, a private corporation would have the power to tax the flying public to pay for the ATC system without Congressional oversight or judicial review. The Trump plan severely limits current public participation requirements regarding aircraft noise when adjusting airspace routes over homes across the United States.