Washington — Who are you going to trust when it comes to what’s best for the flying public? Members of Congress or the hero of the Miracle on the Hudson, retired Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger?

Proponents of privatizing air traffic control, a top priority of President Donald Trump, face fierce resistance from some Republicans, many Democrats and various advocacy groups who have a forceful voice: Sullenberger, the pilot who managed to land an airliner in the Hudson River without the loss of a single life after the plane lost thrust in both engines.

Privatization plus another proposal that would make it easier for co-pilots to get academic credit for certification have drawn congressional opposition and stalled efforts to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration, a must-do for Congress by Sept. 30.

Sullenberger said he considers the legislative proposals an attempt to boost the bottom lines of the airlines at the expense of the public. He’s speaking out, knowing that the actions he and his crew took that January day in 2009 have given them a bully pulpit with the American public.

“They trust us,” said Sullenberger, most recently portrayed on film by actor Tom Hanks. “They know we’re experts at what we’re talking about.”

Republicans opposed to privatization recognize they have a flying ace to make their case.

“No man was better when it came to safety standards. And then he demonstrated it that day, that he knew what he was talking about,” said Rep. Steve Russell, R-Okla. “I think we need to take pause, and take a step back, and listen.”

The push for privatization of air traffic control operations has some powerful backers, but supporters still have more convincing to do to secure a vote in the House. GOP leaders have delayed a vote until after the August recess.

The bill’s backers argue that Washington budget dysfunction and the FAA’s ineffective contract management have hindered the agency’s efforts to keep pace with technology. Major projects consistently exceed cost estimates and fall behind schedule, including a critical move to satellite-based navigation and digital communications, which will reduce airport delays.


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