As the world’s leader in aviation safety, you would expect the United States to also be at the forefront of air traffic control (ATC) technology and innovation. Sadly, that’s not the case.
The truth is that we have fallen behind countries like France, Germany, the UK and Canada in delivering an ATC system the industry needs and customers deserve.
A new report from the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Inspector General (IG) is the latest in a string of reviews that show why transformational reform is needed from the top down. The FAA’s inability to implement technology that has been available for years – such as NextGen – is just the most recent, in a troubling series of observations about how ineffective the organization has been in accomplishing real ATC reform.
While other countries have seized opportunities to separate their ATC functions from safety regulation, the U.S. historically has placed both of these responsibilities under the FAA’s leadership. Relying on the FAA to manage aviation safety while at the same time running a service business, which includes overseeing the implementation of NextGen ATC technology, simply isn’t getting the job done, and runs counter to how most countries operate their ATC systems.
Other DOT IG reports, presidentially appointed aviation commissions, Government Accountability Office reviews and independent private sector experts have all found the FAA’s progress toward delivering NextGen capabilities hasn’t met expectations. Given all of these negative reports, it’s not surprising that the National Research Council recently indicated that the FAA should “reset expectations” when it comes to NextGen.
After more than a decade without sufficient progress, we don’t need the FAA to “reset expectations,” we need a new paradigm to deliver efficient ATC service that responds to consumers. Right now, Congress has a rare opportunity to enable a world-class ATC system with a modern governance structure that will make air travel more efficient for the 2 million customers who fly U.S. airlines each day.
The U.S. aviation industry is a critical part of our nation’s economy and enables U.S. businesses to compete in the global economy. We can’t afford to continue to rely on an outdated WWII era system to support such a major economic driver.
In fact, relying on antiquated technology is costing passengers and airlines $30 billion annually in delays and cancellations.
Our customers deserve better, and now is the time for Congress to deliver.
Establishing a federally chartered, non-profit organization is the best solution to strengthen our nation’s first-rate safety record and allow America’s ATC system to operate more efficiently and with proper governance, funding and accountability to the stakeholders who use the system – all while reducing costs for system users and delays for passengers.
The U.S. operates the safest ATC system in the world, and there is no reason it shouldn’t be the most efficient. Now is the time for transformational change.