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Hero Pilot, ‘Sully’ Sullenberger, Votes No on Trump’s Air Traffic Plan (Editorial)
August 2, 2017
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  • Memo to President Trump: if you want your plan to privatize the air traffic control industry to get an honest, fair discussion, and if you have any hope of actually passing it, don’t insult an American hero.

    Put the Twitter button away. Make your case, but not with personal attacks against Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, one of the few true, untarnished American heroes we have left.

    Sullenberger’s fame stems from the 2009 “Miracle on the Hudson,” during which he successfully ditched United Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River, saving all 155 people aboard. Now retired, Sullenberger is not only admired for his remarkable landing but is a respected, independent voice for the airline community.

    Trump is not alone in supporting privatization of air traffic control, and its advocates have reasons. They claim budget problems and the Federal Aviation Administration’s poor contract management have put it behind in developing the best technology, with costs soaring above estimates and projects missing deadlines or remaining incomplete.

    The FAA must be reauthorized by Sept. 30, so this issue must be addressed in a timely manner. Many Democrats oppose privatization but so do some Republicans.

    Nervous about taking on Trump, the balky GOP members in particular have a rallying voice in Sullenberger, who says public safety could be compromised. The bill’s advocates want a more businesslike approach and say the current model is outdated and unwieldy, but Sullenberger’s concerns resonate, because of his background and expertise.

    This subject is worth a fair debate. That won’t happen if Trump reverts to personally attacking those who oppose it.

    A president who disparaged John McCain’s war record and criticized a Gold Star mother during his campaign, and has flaunted his Twitter account like a political sword since Inauguration Day, can’t be assumed to treat anyone as respectful opposition. But if Trump goes on the attack against Sullenberger, he will not only offend a nationally admired man but also doom any hopes of getting his pet measure passed.

    The president and the pilot have different views on privatizing of air traffic control. That’s fair. Let’s hope if President Trump wades in on this, he wages this debate as a fair fight in keeping with how wise decisions should be made. It would be a refreshing change.