WASHINGTON, D.C. — Standing at a podium in the a packed White House East Room on Monday, President Donald Trump announced a new initiative to modernize the air traffic control system, which he them promptly signed.
“Welcome to the beginning of a new era for American infrastructure,” Vice President Mike Pence said as he welcomed the crowd ahead of President Trump’s address.
Pence highlighted the 600,000 jobs created since Trump took office, then added that the American people hired a “builder” as President. He said this new infrastructure initiative follows through on another campaign promise and will contribute to safety.
“As I can attest from first hand experience, having more precise landings in America is a good thing,” Pence joked in reference to when his campaign plane skidded off a runway at New York’s Laguardia airport.
President Trump then took the podium to speak of what he said would bring the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) into the modern era.
Trump said that “for too many years our country has tolerated unacceptable delays at the airport. Long wait times on the tarmac and a slowing of commerce in travel have cost us billions and billions of dollars in lost hours and lost dollars themselves.”
“Today we’re preposing to take American air travel into the future, finally, finally,” said Trump.
The President said this will facilitate reduced wait times, increased route efficiency, and far fewer delays. He said the plan would get people to their destinations “more quickly, more reliably, more affordably and yes, for the first time in a long time, on time.”
President Trump said this initiative will result in “modernizing the outdated system of air traffic control.” He mentioned slips of paper used to track planes. Trump said the current air traffic control system was developed in a time when approximately 100,000 people were traveling through airports each year, but that that number is now approaching one billion. “The current system cannot keep up, hasn’t been able to keep up for many years.”
After many years and billions of tax dollars, the system is “stuck” with a horrible, broken, antiquated system, according to Trump.
The President pointed to a $7 billion dollar attempt under the “previous administration” to update the system which Trump said, “totally failed.”
The initiative proposes new reforms to congress. Trump said this reflects what air traffic controllers want. He pointed out unions and cargo companies present that support his initiative including a new framework and bidding process.
Every former FAA chief and COO and three transportation secretaries “stand with us today,” said Trump.
“It’s a coalition for change,” he added. This plan would create a nonprofit entity that would not need taxpayer money. The FAA will focus on “safety,” said Trump. A new nonprofit entity will be “charged with ensuring route efficiency, timely service, and a long awaited reduction in delays,” he said.
The plan will maintain support for rural communities, according to Trump.
Trump said of air traffic controllers, “Under our plan they will have more financial security, professional opportunity, and far superior equipment — the best equipment anywhere in the world.”
He said they studied several other countries’ plans. Referencing one in particular, but not naming the country, he said the U.S. system under this plan will be better.
“The new technology, and i’ve seen it, is incredible,” he said. Trump touted, “cheaper, faster, safer travel” under the new plan.
He went on to mention Canada’s system.
“Today we are taking the first important step to clearing the runway for more jobs, lower prices, and much much much better transportation,” said Trump, pointing out that the U.S. pioneered air travel.
Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao echoed the President with expectations of a much improved air traffic control system.
Chao then introduced Chairman of the House Transportation Committee Bill Shuster. Shuster spoke of modernizing the system as he held up three strips of paper to demonstrate one low tech way controllers currently use to communicate. He said the users of the system will be in control of managing it.
Director of National Economic Council Gary Cohn then took the podium. He thanked the former DOT Secretaries for participating in the event. He said the current great safety record will continue. He said he looks forward to working with everyone gathered to quickly implement the plan.
White House officials told reporters ahead of the announcement that the new plan upends a portion of Shuster’s plan, as the new plan implements a 13-member board. Eight members of the board under the new plan will be selected, made up of two members to represent airlines, two to represent unions, one to represent general aviation, one to represent airports, two to represent government as a whole. These eight members would, along with the CEO, select four additional independent members.
During Trump’s East Room address on Monday, he briefly pivoted to speak about veteran services and moves toward “far better quality care” for military veterans.
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