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Trump Wants To Modernize Air Travel By Turning Over Control To the Big Airlines (theverge.com) 341

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Today, President Donald Trump endorsed a plan to hand over oversight of the nation's airspace to a non-profit corporation that will likely be largely controlled by the major airlines. Republicans argue that privatizing air traffic control will help save money and fast track important technological upgrades. But Democrats and consumer groups criticize that plan as a corporate giveaway that will inevitably harm passengers. The air traffic reform proposal, which fell short in Congress last year, would transfer oversight from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to a government-sanctioned, independent entity that would be made up of appointees from industry stakeholders. The effort picked up steam when the union representing air traffic controllers endorsed the plan, citing years of understaffing by the FAA. Some passengers may balk at the idea of handing over day-to-day management of the nation's highly complex air traffic control system to the same companies that rack up tens of thousands of customer complaints a year, and occasionally physically assault or drag passengers off their planes. But the Trump administration argues this is the only way to modernize a system that still runs on technology that's been around since World War II. The FAA is already years into a technology upgrade known as NextGen, which involves moving from the current system based on radar and voice communications to one based on satellite navigation and digital communications. The FAA wants to use GPS technology to shorten routes, save time and fuel, and reduce traffic delays by increasing capacity.
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Trump Wants To Modernize Air Travel By Turning Over Control To the Big Airlines

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  • Republicans (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 05, 2017 @05:46PM (#54554609)

    Two things that come to mind when I think about Republcans:

    1. Embrace of technological progress.
    2. Telling the truth about what motivates their policies.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Yes dear AC, like WMD in Iraq, no anthropomorphic climate change, voodoo economics, bombing middle eastern countries will make them peaceful, pollution is good for you, nuclear power is clean as hell and produces no waste products, privatization makes things cheaper, guns make everyone safer.... hell, I could go on all day.

      Your post is so amusing. No wonder it is anonymous.

      • by sconeu ( 64226 )

        I believe you have fallen into the Chasm of Sar. But I might be wrong...

        As usual, Poe's Law applies

        • Maybe, but there are plenty of the voodoo economics types here, and they tend to post AC. I thought it might be sarcastic but it wasn't cleaver enough to make that call.

          • Voodoo Economics == Laffer Curve == Trickle Down Economics

            The only thing that trickles down is piss.

            • Yup. The thing that gets me the most angry is that Republicans claim that economic growth is their god, and yet they love it when the wealthy offshore their profits tax free in other countries (like the Panama papers exposed). Economies work best, just like circulatory systems, when the flow is maintained the system is healthy. Offshoring huge profits and leaving them there cuts off the circulation. It stagnates the very economy they claim they want to see grow. Either they are insane, or more likely the mo

      • by gtall ( 79522 )

        The post: satire. You: Lost on you it is.

        • You are probably right, but I had fun posting it anyway. :)

        • If you're convinced that was satire, I think you don't know enough about where the vast majority of slashdot comments are coming from these days. If slashdot readers were representative of the US at large, Trump would have won at least 103% of the popular vote.
  • by The Real Dr John ( 716876 ) on Monday June 05, 2017 @05:47PM (#54554621) Homepage

    This is about rich people making even more money, not about anything else. I wish people would stop the nonsense about greater efficiency. It always ends up badly for regular people, just ask the people in Flint Michigan about their water.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      As opposed to the super connected politicians making all the money. Got it.

    • Poor Tax (Score:2, Insightful)

      by s.petry ( 762400 )

      Money coming from tax payers means that everyone, from poor to rich pay for the services. As opposed to people who can afford to use the airlines paying an additional fee to support the services they actually use. Considering the ultra wealthy can afford to pay a lesser rate for their taxes (the 80,000 page US tax code isn't that large to make it fair) it's the rest of the population paying for this today!

      This is the problem with a whole lot of projects and schemes where both the far left and far right cl

      • I present to you. Windows me, windows longhorn, windows Vista

        Large complicated projects tend to go off the rails especially when they get done by committee. Instead of a focused task master.

        The FAA is trying to upgrade 1000's of installations all of which must communicate with each other, must not disrupt current communications or data and the new system isn't compatible with the old one.

        If someone screws up one line of code people!e die by the hundreds.

        Do you trust your coding enough not to have any bugs?

        • I would like to see a parallel system set up that can be tested before taking over. It makes the most sense. They need to transfer to GPS but I think that ground based backup is a good idea in case of solar storms, orbiting debris issues, etc. But it should be a government run system without any profit motive, or any motive to cut costs whatsoever.

          I also think that there should be a big tax on first class and business class travel to help pay for it.

      • by sjames ( 1099 )

        Government tends to be horrible at everything

        We all like to think that, but then we have tech support at any ISP, warranty service practically everywhere, insurance and their crazy rules and forms everywhere, private prisons lobbying for harsher sentencing, and when that's not enough actually bribing judges to send more juvenile offenders to detention for as long as the law allows, major banks helping drug lords and terrorists launder money, Diesel-gate, Wells Fargo, etc.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 06, 2017 @12:29AM (#54557059)

        You made the claim "Government tends to be horrible at everything". Keep in mind that when states a premise as a fact, they are "Begging the question."

        Government is not horrible at everything. In fact it is quite good at a lot of things. Our mail is delivered every day, our police and fire departments respond every day, our military defends US interests every day, our taxes are collected every day, our currency is managed every day, and thousands of other less-visible governmental actions are performed well every day.

        Government is really bad at some things; but, often those things are the kinds of things that private enterprise is equally bad at, if not worse. Government eventually desegregated the private Universities, despite plenty of action to thwart it. In my opinion, Government didn't do a great job in that department, rather they blundered their way through it. However, they did get the job done. Likewise, the Nixon impeachment proceedings were another slow plodding blunder with an eventual success. The cost overruns of NASA were enormous, but the goal of landing a man on the moon was reached. At the time, no private entity would have been able to achieve these goals.

        I applaud your decision to consider things more deeply. I hope your consider how much you have already bought into the "evil Government" story line. This story line has managed to leverage the election of a person unqualified to be a politician (he's qualified to be a CEO of Trump Enterprises, but these are not equivalent positions).

        US history has had automotive manufacturers release cars they know would explode in minor collisions because it was cheaper to incur the expenses of about 2,400 wrongful deaths than to pay the $11 per car to put a weld patch over the gas tank. That is what a business will do, maximize profits selfishly. Perhaps there are a few businesses which won't, but that doesn't impede the ones that do.

        Only government can protect the rights of the people. Stop bashing it if you want your rights protected. Fix it if you think it is broken, but TRUST me on this, don't take anyone's word as fact that it is broken. Lying about broken government is often a cheap trick to get in office.

        To prove my point, our current President lied about the broken "Obama plays too much golf" when in reality he's played more golf in the first five months than Obama has played in eight years.
            That's your tax dollars at work people! His Secret Service has to guard the golf course. He has to buy out the whole course to do so. He is still getting paid while playing. I'd be pissed if someone earned my trust by pointing out a problem, and then used my votes to make the problem worse (even if it was something as non life-threatening as golf).

        There is an old Dutch saying "Truth in small things is not a small thing." It has may ways of being interpreted, but I'll go with, "If one will lie about a small thing, then lying is not a big deal for that person." Trump lies about how much time a President should spend golfing, if Obama played too much golf, then Trump is playing way too much golf (except that Trump is obviously fine with his frequency of playing golf). That's about as small as it gets. Don't expect any truth from this man.

    • I don't know, it sounds a lot like the FDA... which more or less works.
    • Flint Michigan was government failure at multiple levels. Had nothing to do with the private sector.

  • against the Unions. this will be good.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 05, 2017 @05:50PM (#54554647)

    The plan is to create an NGO to operate it, fully funded by user fees -- not to hand control over to the airlines.

    This system is used in about 50 countries, including Canada, the UK, and Australia.

    • by Holi ( 250190 )
      I completely agree that NextGen needs to be fully implemented here. I worry about how we will privatize it as privatization in America does not tend to work out well for the mere citizen, the lack of will for serious regulation means these companies get to run roughshod over us.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The plan is to create an NGO to operate it, fully funded by user fees -- not to hand control over to the airlines.

      This system is used in about 50 countries, including Canada, the UK, and Australia.

      NavCanada has fifteen seats on the Board of Directors:

      * four Directors elected by commercial carriers through the National Airlines Council of Canada (NACC);
      * one Director elected by business and general aviation through the Canadian Business Aviation Association (CBAA);
      * three Directors elected by the Government of Canada;
      * two Directors elected by employee unions;
      * four independent Directors elected by the Board through the Director member; and
      * the Chief Executive Officer.


      • > As usual, Trump has put forward a glorious plan with few details.

        Enough with the gloom! He's gonna build a wall in the sky and then make the pigeons pay for it!

  • by AlanObject ( 3603453 ) on Monday June 05, 2017 @05:54PM (#54554683)

    Oh, yeah. I really want my safety to be weighed against someone's profit margin in a spreadsheet somewhere.

    Government is not a business. It should not be run like a business. People who think it should be should not be allowed anywhere near a decision making office in government.

    • You think it is profitable to crash multi-million dollar airliners?

      • by gtall ( 79522 )

        It depends. Their bean counters will hone finely tuned models that predict just how many people they can be allowed to off before it affects the bottom line. As long as they are below the limit, it won't bother them.

    • by Ichijo ( 607641 )

      Government is not a business. It should not be run like a business.

      I beg to differ [strongtowns.org]:

      Back when I did engineering work, I worked on two separate contracts for very similar projects at roughly the same time. Project A was for a city, while Project B was being paid for by a developer. For Project A, we signed a lump sum contract with the city to do the study and design and then an hourly billing schedule for inspection. For Project B, we had an hourly agreement with the developer to provide the same services...

      • This illustrates one way that a government could be run more like a business for the benefit of all taxpayers.

        What fools people is that SOME parts of government look very much like a business. They run office space. They procure stuff. They hire people.

        And yes they have some management principles in common. You can have either good or bad management in either business or in government. The fallacy is that you try to solve bad management in government by turning it into a business. That sounds neat a

        • by Ichijo ( 607641 )

          Businesses are accountable to the shareholders. Or should be.

          Not the customers?

        • Accountability is something that requires teeth.

          In private enterprise, teeth is losing customers, or not having your contract renewed. In private business, that's going to happen for one of two reasons: market forces (ie a competitor with a better/faster/cheaper product) or managerial incompetence. In either case, the problem corrects itself when the business goes under. But because shareholders and beancounters, there can be extra sets of eyes to weed out managerial incompetence and workforce incompetence
    • Oh, yeah. I really want my safety to be weighed against someone's profit margin in a spreadsheet somewhere.

      While I probably agree with you in this particular case (though I haven't read all the details), and I'm generally suspicious of relying on businesses to audit themselves, this policy isn't always true in general. Government can also have bad motivations and conflicts of interest.

      Take the TSA and airport security for example. Before 9/11, airport security was mostly a private affair, and it generally functioned well. 9/11 wasn't even really a failure of airport security, since the hijackers actually o

      • Oh, and by the way, if you think the pre-9/11 tests weren't as rigorous, you're probably right. But this 2002 report [cbsnews.com] AFTER 9/11 where the FAA was determined to show how bad private airport screeners were only managed to sneak weapons past airport security 24% of the time. At the time, it was a "call for action," and the transition to federal TSA screeners that was to happen later that year was proclaimed as the solution. (At the time, TSA was only involved in supervision, not actually staffing screening.
  • by dlleigh ( 313922 ) on Monday June 05, 2017 @05:59PM (#54554743)

    GPS is fine when it works. What will happen to air travel when GPS goes down?

    This could happen through a technical fault (likely locally, unlikely globally) or via enemy action (jamming locally, destruction of the infrastructure globally).

    Remember that the C/A (coarse/acquisition) code that we civilians use for navigation was never meant for that. Like the Internet, various bits of old and new technology and capability gradually accreted into something upon which our entire economy depends. That something was not designed as a whole, and was certainly not designed for robustness and dependability. Ponder this the next time you step onto a plane.

    • by brambus ( 3457531 ) on Monday June 05, 2017 @08:01PM (#54555577)
      "GPS" is used in the article simply because it's a nice buzzword that non-aviation people know, but it doesn't necessarily pertain to how the exact method of navigation is implemented in the aircraft. In aviation, the umbrella term for this kind of navigation is "RNAV", a somewhat counterintuitive backronym for "area navigation". Basically, it means your aircraft is capable of determining its position (subject to some quantifiable error) and navigating to an arbitrary set of geographic coordinates, rather than following ground-based navigational beacons. How the position is determined depends on the exact kind of RNAV system you have installed. Most modern airliners have a highly accurate dual- or triple-redundant inertial reference system (IRS), in addition to (usually) two GPS receivers and a couple of ground-based navigational aid receivers (usually VOR/DME). The aircraft's flight management computers (again, usually at least two) then use a complicated set of filtering algorithms to combine these inputs and compute an actual aircraft position and a CEP (circular error probable) value, which is then interpreted and displayed in the cockpit as a navigational precision value. RNAV procedures are designed for a minimum required navigational precision. Therefore, the loss of GPS reception doesn't manifest in the aircraft suddenly losing all sense of where it is located. Instead, the FMCs simply interpret it as the loss of a source of position data and carry on using the remaining good sources. Even without GPS, the inertial reference systems are highly accurate and rarely exceed more than +-1NM positional error even on very long flights. To further limit IRS drift, most modern FMCs automatically use the ground-based navigational aid receivers for periodic adjustments of the IRS platforms. They autotune a nearby VOR/DME station, read off magnetic radial and distance information and use that to correct IRS drift. This all before we even get into systems such as WAAS or SBAS, which are specifically designed to quickly detect and correct GPS transmission errors. High-quality aircraft GPS systems also include a set of features called RAIM (Receiver Autonomous Integrity Monitoring), which means the GPS equipment will perform a receiver and predictive signal integrity check prior to commencing a critical phase of flight that might be dependent on the GPS equipment operating correctly.
  • by bugs2squash ( 1132591 ) on Monday June 05, 2017 @06:02PM (#54554769)
    Presumably there will be an up-charge for "premium traffic control".
  • And then you can have a supreme council, a council of the heads of councils if you will.

    This was briefly the government of Italy, with ministers of Agriculture and Forestry, Corporations, Finance and so on. This was called the Grand Council of Fascism, which see.

  • Big mistake (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dcavanaugh ( 248349 ) on Monday June 05, 2017 @06:11PM (#54554851) Homepage

    This is a bad idea that the airline lobby floats every few years. When the Democrats had control, they almost bought it until cooler heads prevailed. With Republicans in charge, it's time for another try. There really isn't much that the Federal government couldn't improve with privatization, but this is one of those things.

    If this passes, the airlines will dominate the privatized company, transferring as much cost as they can to general aviation, while abusing their power for the purpose of limiting competition. They will dumb-down the controllers, resulting in chaos. It's hard to believe anyone could make the air travel industry any less accountable than it already is, but empowering an industry with a notoriously poor reputation of policing itself would be one way to do it.

    Have we learned nothing from privatized airport security? Although I despise TSA, I have to admit that privatized airport security prior to 9/11 was absolutely useless. TSA, for all its well-documented flaws, ended the concept of minimum wage and constant turnover among security agents.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I personally knew some GOP planners; this is how they plan:

      1) Purposely fuck up government services as much as they possibly can without getting into trouble themselves: get people to hate stuff they like.

      2) FUD against government services and politicians... Uncertantity and Doubt = lower voter turn out. Fear (often connected to Hate) is central to their campaigning.

      3) Run on reform for said services counting on the public to not be smart enough to see wolves in sheeps' clothing.

      4) After the public is upse

  • by Elentar ( 168685 ) <slashdot AT ultraviolet DOT us> on Monday June 05, 2017 @06:16PM (#54554885)

    The NextGen program has had several high-profile failures. The implementation of new routes in Phoenix resulted in a large number of complaints and lawsuits against the FAA. The more recent changes in the SF Bay Area including routing a much higher number of aircraft over Palo Alto and lower elevations in the Santa Cruz Mountains, both of which have angered a great many residents.

    Jet traffic brings noise pollution and air pollution to the corridors they travel, resulting in health impacts (though difficult to measure) and sometimes significant reductions in property value. The previous corridors have been used for decades and the impact is well-understood by residents in those areas; the change was not well-communicated before being implemented and residents were mostly caught unawares.

    The benefits of these changes include a higher volume of traffic to airports, increasing airport profits; more efficient routes for airlines, increasing airline profits; and potentially cheaper fares for customers resulting from the first two changes. Speaking personally, I would rather keep my home value and quieter skies.

  • I can't get too furious about this. I'm reading all the things that could go wrong in the comments and why it's a bad idea, and, it's not anything too terrifying. Cost of airfare is always gonna go up one way or another. If it goes up too much, then seats are empty, and airlines lose money; the market adjusts. And if this proposed company screws up, then oversight still drops in and starts making changes. I know it feels weird for Trump to support something that isn't the dumbest idea ever, but, how about w
  • Nav Canada (Score:5, Insightful)

    by brianerst ( 549609 ) on Monday June 05, 2017 @06:26PM (#54554973) Homepage

    Canada did the exact same thing (privatize to an NGO) in 1996.

    Nav Canada, the NGO that operates Canada's air traffic control, has won three IATA Eagle Awards [navcanada.ca] for Best Air Traffic Controller since 2001. It also closely coordinates with the existing FAA ATC system as the Canadian and US airspace are extremely interrelated (perhaps the most so in the world).

    Canada is one of about 50 countries that have gone this route (Britain, Germany, Australia and New Zealand are among the countries that have done so). Nav Canada even sells their system (Australia runs on it) - we could potentially just buy a solution.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Yes, several countries have ATC run by an NGO, but the difference is in who controls that NGO. You mention Germany, but the DFS in Germany is 100% owned and controlled by the German state, Lufthansa does not have representation. Are there any examples of ATC NGOs where airlines DO have substantial control?

    • Canada is one of about 50 countries that have gone this route (Britain, Germany, Australia and New Zealand are among the countries that have done so). Nav Canada even sells their system (Australia runs on it) - we could potentially just buy a solution.

      Perhaps not a bad idea then, though maybe America would be better off outsourcing the running of their elections and their health care system first.

    • by Ksevio ( 865461 )
      But they're not really better than the US - just a private corporation rather than a government entity. Not sure what system you're referring to specifically, but Australia is working to restructure their ATC infrastructure.
  • by Old-Claimjumper ( 463905 ) on Monday June 05, 2017 @06:49PM (#54555141)

    Although many don't see it, America leads in freedom of personal aviation. I can use my aircraft just as I use my car. I have proper FAA licenses and medical certificates. I am instrument rated and can fly with the same rules as the airlines. I can also get in my plane and go camping at a remote strip or visit a restaurant in the next town's airport without requesting permission from anyone just as I would with my car. If I fly into big central airports following the same rules as the airlines then I can and do coordinate with the proper FAA officials. My use of these facilities is fully funded by taxes levied on the aviation gasoline that I burn n the plane. The idea here is that as a free American I can choose my mode of transportation within the nation's transportation system on the same basis as anyone else, private or corporate. For the most part, my aircraft is like my car.

    With a switch from costs coming from taxes on aviation gasoline to "user fees" for various specific operations and a switch from a government control system to a private NGO the freedom to use an aircraft much like a car for personal transportation will mostly disappear. This is exactly what has happened in (e.g.) Europe where(for example) fees for each takeoff and landing effectively stop practice at small airports.
    Then a governing board that will inevitably be dominated by the airlines will set the rules so that those pesky private aircraft will be effectively gone.

    If you like this idea, then please accept the same for our highways. Each time you drive to the store for some milk, every time you take a weekend at the lake, you must first file a "drive plan" with a corporate board run by the trucking industry. Then you will give a credit card number so that your driveway exit, road use, and parking use fees will be automatically paid for the trip.

    And if you think that this is tin-foil-hat stuff, please look at the rules for private aircraft in Europe and the rest of the world.
    This is the death of one more freedom that we currently have in this great country.

    • I wouldn't worry too much. Like so many Trump ideas where he's going to make something great, he's short on specifics. This type of thing would take some major legislation. Way more than the page and a half he could read in one day.
    • I'm also a pilot and user fees will make things personally very difficult - possibly forcing me to give up flying after 30 years.

      I see the argument - from a pure efficiency point of view, light GA is a waste. An "efficient" world will have airlines and corporate jets, with flight training done in empty parts of the country.

      The highway example isn't really right - the majority of highway traffic (in numbers and economic value) is personal automobiles. They remain an efficient mode of transportation for many

  • by turning driving over to big corporate driverless cars?
  • ...the FAA's update has been called "the worst boondoggle ever", the (Iirc) 3rd failed update effort, eating tens of billions of dollars.

    https://www.google.com/amp/amp... [google.com]

    I know the narrative is that "every trump idea is stupid" but this plan has worked several times in other countries quite well, including Canada...

    • by Boronx ( 228853 )

      The problem is really the plan. Trump undoubtedly doesn't have one yet. If he ever gets around to it, it will be a horrible give away that threatens key pillars of ATC.

      It's kind of like the Iraq war. Was getting rid of Saddam a bad idea? Not too bad. Does that mean we should let Dick Cheney do it? Hell no. The dudes a moron and also doesn't give a shit.

  • Regulatory capture (Score:5, Insightful)

    by manu0601 ( 2221348 ) on Monday June 05, 2017 @07:41PM (#54555435)
    The problem is that FAA is not only an infrastructure operator, it is also a regulator. Hence what we see here is government-pushed Regulatory capture [wikipedia.org]
  • "By turning over control to the big airlines" This is supposed to scare you and think "OMG, if the big airlines get control over the FAA then they will be able to beat up passengers legally!"

    Air Traffic Control is mostly about co-ordinating which planes are going where so as to ensure they don't crash into each other during flight. The private airline companies may not have much incentive to offer great customer service, but they have a BIG incentive to make sure that their planes don't crash. Because A)
  • There are times when it makes since to go with the lowest bidder, but it usually isn't government services. If the government wants something done correctly, without spelling out the most minor details or anticipating every possible short-cut, it should probably handle it on its own.
  • As exposed in This Film Is Not Yet Rated [dailymotion.com] when an industry "regulates itself" with help of "major" players, they quickly adapt this vehicle to keep the lesser competitors out.

Perfection is acheived only on the point of collapse. - C. N. Parkinson