Aviation Hero Sullenberger Speaks out Against Privatizing the Air Traffic Control System
July 28, 2017
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  • Airline hero Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger is on a crusade to keep the nation’s overburdened air traffic control (ATC) system from being privatized.

    In association with the Alliance for Aviation Across America, Sullenberger stars in a new TV commercial that warns against privatizing ATC, a move that Sullenberger insists would give airlines the “keys to the kingdom,” as he puts it in the new TV spot.

    Though he was a longtime airline guy himself, Sullenberger believes airlines have not displayed the kind of management skills in recent times that would suggest they are up to the task of overseeing a new air traffic control arrangement in the United States.

    “We can’t trust big corporations to run air traffic control” argues Sullenberger in the new commercial.

    Sullenberger offers up even more dire predictions in the new spot. He also notes privatizing ATC would, in Sullenberger’s opinion, put decisions in the hands of a corporate monopoly that would put profits ahead of safety.

    Sullenberger’s stance on the air traffic control debate would appear to put the so-called “Hero of the Hudson,” who safely landed a stricken aircraft on the Hudson River, at odds with United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz, who just days ago sent a memo to his 90,000-plus employees in which he said the solution to the ATC problem in the U.S. is to “take the system out of the political arena and create an independent entity capable of bringing cutting-edge technology online through predictable funding and expert management.”

    Munoz urged his United team to focus on Congress and “make the case not only for our industry, but for our customers who want greater reliability and fewer delays.”

    In an interview, Alliance for Aviation Across America Executive Director Selena Shilad emphasized that Sullenberger’s opinions expressed in the TV spot are his and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of the Alliance.

    Shilad, however, said the Alliance believes it would be possible to modernize the nation’s air traffic control system and make it more efficient without necessarily going the privatization route. But Shilad did not provide any specifics as to how that might happen.

    United Airlines is a unit of United Continental Holdings (NYSE: UAL).