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Government & Politics

Akron Canton CEO Urges Caution in Privatizing Air-Traffic Control

CAK Control Tower
Tim Rudell
Akron Canton Airport with control tower (r)

President Donald Trump wants to move the national air traffic control system from the FAA to a private non-profit corporation. He says that will save money, get technology upgraded faster and cut travel delays. But such a change would include complications.

Rick McQueen, CAK
Credit WKSU
Rick McQueen , President of Akron Canton Regional AIrport

Rick McQueen is president of the Akron Canton Airport, site of one of three full-time control towers in northeast Ohio. He says air traffic control is only one of a host of aviation oversight duties of the FAA.  And separating it out will have to be done thoughtfully.

“We have to keep in mind that if they do decide to go in this direction, there are a lot of regulations that have to be maintained, safety obviously is the highest. 

"This system handles about 50,000 operations a day from airplanes, and it has been very safe. So that kind of safety record would have to be maintained.”

McQueen says the idea of privatizing air-traffic control has been raised periodically since at least the Clinton administration, and it has both advocates and opponents in the industry.

In one area there is especially strong concern about a fee-based system.

“General aviation and pilots’ groups have always fought against that, fearing that the cost would be so large that it would impact general and corporate aviation negatively. So that’s another point that has to be looked at: How would they regulate the funding for this from the standpoint of not making the fees so onerous that it damages the aviation system?”

Akron Canton Airport's Rick McQueen

Transportation department statistics show that general and corporate aviation together contribute about 1 percent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product, while commercial aviation contributes about 5 percent.