As the debate over the possible “privatization” of the Federal Aviation Administration’s control of the nation’s air traffic controllers heats back up in 2017, a new poll seems to indicate that the public is not onboard with the idea. While customer satisfaction with airline services may be stuck at all-time lows, the job being done by those who schedule flights and keep the runways operating in a safe fashion receives considerably higher marks. (Aero News)

Over 60% of voters recently polled oppose privatizing the operations of the air traffic control system by “taking it from the FAA and turning it over to a non-profit corporation,” according to a recent telephone survey.

The survey was conducted by Global Strategy Group of 800 registered voters nationwide between January 30th -February 5th, 2017. The sampling margin of error on the survey is +/-3.5% at the 95% confidence level.

The poll found that over 60% oppose privatizing the air traffic control (ATC) functions of the FAA. Fully 62% oppose privatizing the ATC functions of the FAA “by taking it from the FAA and turning it over to a non-profit corporation,” while 26% support it.

In the current era of polling among a largely dissatisfied electorate, the results of the survey are somewhat startling. The privatization question managed to receive 60% opposition even though it was phrased in a somewhat disingenuous way. The plan being put forth by Congressman Bill Shuster isn’t truly “privatization” so much as it would be the creation of a government supervised body primarily controlled by and benefiting the unions. Even so, this ideas isn’t sitting well with the voters.

Even more surprising is the fact that consumers give such a high ratings to the job being done by the nation’s air traffic controllers. 88% of those surveyed say that the FAA is doing either an excellent or good job. For any government agency to receive such an overwhelming thumbs up from the public in the current era of discontent is nothing less than amazing. It probably speaks fairly well of those who regularly take to the skies and their ability to separate the quality of service they receive in their airline seats from the job being done in the radar tower.

When I first wrote about this proposal one year ago I expressed considerable reservations. I remain a fan of the privatization of government services where feasible, primarily because the profit driven private-sector is frequently far more efficient at getting virtually anything done. (There are of course exceptions, primarily involving areas of national security.) But in order for such schemes to be productive, the new management needs to reside fully in the private sector. Shuster’s plan hands off far too much power to the unions. That in and of itself should be enough to send this proposal back to the drawing board in search of a fresh approach.