With great fanfare, President Trump signed a memo last month outlining his plan to privatize the nation’s air traffic control system. NYT

ATC Privatization Dead For Now

Last Thursday the Senate rejected President Trump’s push to spin-off air traffic control from the  Federal Aviation Administration.


Trump had  signed off with great hoopla a plan to separate air traffic control into a nonprofit private corporation.


Surrounded by several former secretaries of transportation at a White House ceremony in June, Trump said: “The previous administration spent over $7 billion trying to upgrade the system and totally failed. Honestly, they didn’t know what the hell they were doing, a total waste of money.”


But a noncompliant Senate chose to ditch the White House’s fundamental proposal –  to privatize air-traffic control.


Senator John Thune (R-SD) said the Senate panel rejected Trump’s key act due to a “lack of support.”


Thank you to all our FlyersRights members who called their Representatives la st Tuesday to voice opposition to this bill – and without a script, as many of you pointed out.


Key actions in the bill:

* Studying within 18 months of the minimum space between rows of airline seats required to assure the safety of passengers, including those with disabilities;

* Banning voice calls during flights by Transportation Department regulation. Airlines prohibit calls, but some travelers are concerned the Federal Communications Commission could drop a ban on cell calls during flights;


* Forcing airlines within a year to promptly provide automated refunds of fees for services that the passenger doesn’t receive, such as such as early boarding or seat assignments;


* Creating a standardized format within a year for airlines to disclose fees for checked luggage, flight cancellations or changes and seat selection;


* Reviewing airline policies within six months for offering pregnant passengers early boarding;


* Studying airline policies within a year about weather delays, whether they were avoidable and whether any attempts were made to disrupt the fewest travelers;


* Reviewing within one year airlines’ practices re. unfair or deceptive in changing flight plans within 24 hours of departure or with new connections;


* A provision pushed by ALPA against foreign carriers was included in the bill –  to block foreign airlines, such as Norwegian Airlines, from serving the US;

Revival of the Concorde: The bill also orders the FAA to review its supersonic overland flight ban to certify if technology has advanced enough to change the rules;

* Allow pilot training to be counted toward the 1,500-hour minimum required of air carrier pilots.2

The next step is full Senate consideration. Other Congressional business, most notably health care, could push back the  FAA bill past the August recess.

Account by a Passenger in an Emergency Evacuation Last week

Key information: It took 5 minutes to evacuate 60 passengers. The FAA requires all planes to be able to evacuate in 90 seconds with half exits inoperable. This story was told to the editor of Quartz media outlet  

When your plane’s engine catches fire –
As told to the editor of Quartz media.

Experts say your survival in a plane accident often depends on  how quickly you get off the plane.I’d estimate it took at least five minutes to evacuate the roughly 60 passengers from our plane.

Things could have been sped up if everyone followed the instructions not to take anything with them.One of our fellow passengers noted that people all slowed down at the bottom of the stairs to the tarmac, turning around to look at the fire. In retrospect, I or someone else could have stood there to whisk them away from the plane and help speed the exit of those stuck behind.

* Social media leads people to do stupid things. A number of passengers lingered by the plane to take selfies with the burning engine in the background. They had no information that should have given them confidence that the plane wasn’t going to explode and shower them with fiery metal if they stuck around. Protip: forego selfies.

It can pay to fly first class. The highest-ticketed passengers got off well in advance of the rest of us, since they were closest to the front exit.

We all got off fine, so it didn’t matter in the end-but the first class passengers had the best chances in our burning plane. ( On the other hand,  other studies have concluded that in the case of a plane crash, those can be the worst seats.)

* Panic sets in. There was a brief yelling match during the evacuation as passengers behind us-who had seen the fire closeup out their windows-started panicking and yelling at the people in front of us to speed up. One passenger in front turned around and yelled back that they were going as fast as they could.

Part of the disconnect seemed to be that the people in front of us in the plane didn’t realize it was on fire. Calm urgency is critical.