Privatized air traffic control threatens rural airports

Garden City Regional Airport

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (KSNW) — President Donald Trump is endorsing a proposal to privatize air traffic control, but Senator Jerry Moran opposes it, saying it would hurt regional airports.

The idea has caught the attention of Rachelle Powell.

“We are very concerned about how it would affect rural airports,” said Powell, who manages the Garden City Regional Airport.

She can only guess what privatizing air traffic control would mean for the community.

“There’s not much detail of how and when and what all is going to be implemented if that goes through,” said Powell.

Air traffic controllers in Garden City are already employed by a private company, but under a government contract. The best case scenario would be nothing changes. On the other end of the scale, big changes would be felt at the small airport.

“Worst case scenario, we could lose our air traffic control tower,” said Powell. “We could be required to implement heavy user fees.”

Losing the tower would mean losing additional revenue from serving military aircraft, and charging more in fees would discourage general aviation.

Senator Moran spoke out against the proposal, saying it would only benefit big airports and airlines and place more fees on passengers.

“Airports across Kansas without exception would be damaged by the privatization of air traffic control,” he said.

County tourism officials say the regional air service is crucial to attracting national events and growing the local economy.

If privatization did hurt the airport, it’s a problem Garden City would want to address quickly.

“I think the city would be investigating ways we could possibly continue these services,” said Powell.

Kansas Congressman Roger Marshall expressed concerns about the proposal. KSN also reached out to Senator Roberts’s office, but we did not receive a response.

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