BTV Airport Director Concerned About Air Traffic Privatization Plan

Jun 6, 2017

President Trump announced on Monday a plan to turn air traffic control at the nation's airports over to a non-profit corporation, a plan that worries Gene Richards, director of aviation at Burlington International Airport.

Trump says removing oversight of air traffic from the FAA would lower costs and speed up air travel. But Richards says the plan puts a priority on saving money, instead of safety and performance. 

"What I'm concerned about is we're going to be looking at the bottom line, and not necessarily the performance," Richards told Vermont Edition.  "The performance levels have been very good of the FAA."

The idea of removing air traffic control from government bureaucracy and privatizing it has been floated several times in the past. The president's plan has received both support and criticism from around the aviation industry.

The president says federal bureaucracy has slowed the implementation of new air traffic technology called NextGen. The system is already in place at BTV.  "We got the NextGen system last year. It's a $2 million upgrade," says Richards.  "So I'm not quite sure, at least in Burlington's case, how we would benefit from this privatization."

BTV is the 113th largest airport in the country. Richards says it's likely that the smallest airports would be more negatively affected than large hubs, if the idea moves forward.