[By Keith Laing of The Hill]
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s election would cause flights to be delayed and a planned upgrade of the national aviation system to be grounded, the AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades Department said Thursday.
The union, which has endorsed President Obama’s bid for reelection, said Romney’s budget plans would lead to the elimination of a half million transportation jobs and prevent the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) from implementing its proposed NextGen satellite airplane navigation system.
“If you like delayed flights and an outdated aviation system — you’ll love the Romney/Ryan plan,” AFL-CIO TTD President Ed Wytkind wrote in a blog post on the union’s website.
“And that is just the beginning,” he continued. “Do you want to elect a president who was the director and shareholder of an airline that blatantly violated the rights of pilots to organize a union? Because that is what Romney did with Key Airlines before he and his partners at Bain Capital quickly sold it for an $18 million profit…. Or how about his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, who has voted against collective bargaining rights for FAA workers and wants to privatize our air traffic control system. This is a politician who actually voted to allow foreign companies, like those in China, to own and control U.S. airlines.”
The navigation system Wytkind was discussing has been long planned by the FAA to switch the air traffic control system from radar technology that has been used since World War II to a satellite-based system.
The switch is expected to cost the FAA about $22 billion through 2025. Plans have called for the NextGen system to be in place at the busiest airports by 2014, and nationwide by 2020.
Airlines have said they would have to spend about an additional $20 billion to upgrade their airplanes’ computer systems.
Republicans in the House have called for the FAA to consolidate some of its existing air traffic control towers and looking to partner with private sector companies to bring down the costs of the program.
Wytkind said the GOP approach presented aviation industry employees and supporters with “a choice between an incumbent president who will properly fund the national airspace system and defend collective bargaining rights, or his opponent, who has promised to do the opposite.”
Aviation security — along with many other transportation issues — was not discussed during the first debate between Obama and Romney on Wednesday night.