U.S. lawmakers will be discussing a bill next week that could reform the way the United States does air traffic control.
America’s air traffic control system may be safe, but it is also getting behind and could potentially be too far behind to do it’s job properly.
Secretary James Brunley said it could soon become a very visible drag on the economy. To put it simply, we are still using WWII era radar to track our planes.
“Every time you get on a commercial airline the controller responsible for your plane is tracking the planes they are responsible for on paper strips,” said Brunley.
The question is, why has it taken so long to make upgrades? Brunley said the last attempt was nearly 20 years ago during the Clinton administration, in which the White House pushed a proposal to a Republican Congress and couldn’t get it moving.
The bill lawmakers are now considering would take the air traffic control system out of the FAA and set it up in a non profit corporation. Around 60 other countries have done this, including Canada.
“Maybe the best U.S. parallel we have today is the American Red Cross. It’s a federally chartered non-profit corporation with a budget of over $3 million a year that we trusted to manage our blood supply and have a huge role in disasters like we are looking at in Florida. This is not a radical idea,” said Brunley.
He said we have fewer fully qualified air traffic controllers than we’ve ever had in 28 years.
By privatizing air traffic controlling it would free up the system the federal tax on every ticket would be abolished and user fees would subsidies. The FAA would still have the power to regulate on safety, but it would permit them to do long term capitol planning.
If it is approved, the transition will take roughly three years.