Not the Answer for Air Traffic Control
March 18, 2016
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  • Re: “The remedy for aviation delays?,” March 13 editorial.

    The Denver Post editorial endorsing a congressional proposal creating a federally chartered air traffic control corporation contains a number of errors. A federally chartered, not-for-profit air traffic control corporation will erode aviation system safety, stifle the deployment of new technologies, and saddle the traveling public with ever increasing travel costs.

    Federally chartering an air traffic control corporation, The Post implies, means the U.S. government supervises it. In fact, controversies surround such corporations, including Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the Red Cross and the Smithsonian. The Post also implies the corporation will be overseen by the government. Wrong. The corporation will be controlled by a board of aviation insiders. One indisputable fact at the legislative hearing on the proposal: The nation’s airlines will have effective control.

    The Post supports an argument put forward by many supporters of this proposal about the level of modernization of the air traffic control system. These views are simplistic and clearly point to a non-operational view of reality.

    The U.S. air traffic control system is modern, highly integrated, and provides for an extremely high level of continuity in the face of disruptive meteorological and technological challenges. One must only visit one of the state-of-the-art Federal Aviation Administration centers to realize these are extremely robust and modern facilities. These facilities, along with the FAA’s high-altitude enroute air traffic control centers, already fuse multiple sensor sources, including radar and Global Positioning System inputs, into highly integrated systems.

    The idea of creating an air traffic control corporation appeals to many as a way to address budgetary stability at the FAA. But the FAA isn’t the only part of the federal budget that needs relief from political in-fighting. Air traffic control is a monopoly, and governance of the proposed corporation is precooked to pick its winners and losers, leaving the consumer and general aviation largely on the outside looking in.

    Thomas L. Hendricks is president and CEO of the National Air Transportation Association.