With recent headlines such as “Trump Budget Includes ATC Giveaway” and “Trump Calls for Air Traffic Control Spin-Off in Budget,” privatization of air traffic control (ATC) services in the United States is a hot-button political issue. Indeed, USA Today reports that President Donald Trump’s call to privatize ATC was “one of his top priorities” in his 2017 budget. And, for the first time, legislation (H.R. 2997) privatizing the ATC made it out of committee.

The discussion of ATC privatization is nothing new. Since the 1980s, several countries have privatized the management and funding of their respective ATC services. And over the past two decades, Congress, sitting Presidents, and aviation stakeholders in the United States have debated whether the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) should continue to operate and modernize the country’s ATC system or whether an independent, self-financed organization, either public or private, should take on this role.

This article addresses whether a privatized ATC, as supported by President Trump and the U.S. airlines, among others, is a solution to a recognized problem or whether a privatized ATC system would instead create a host of new problems, including reducing equity, increasing costs, and compromising safety.