When NBC’s Matt Lauer interned for a day at JFK air traffic control in New York, he had a chance to see firsthand just how antiquated our current air navigation system is, and how hard our air traffic controllers work on a daily basis to keep our skies safe. Lauer’s Today co-host Al Roker was shocked to see controllers using “little strips of paper” to guide the most technologically advanced planes ever developed. Lauer also noted that ground-based radar was used to monitor flight traffic. This antiquated WWII-era radar technology keeps planes from flying as directly and efficiently as they could, costing passengers both time and money.
Air traffic controllers could do their jobs more efficiently with updated technology. This would make the skies even safer for travelers and improve flight efficiency for all. Furthermore, controller hiring to meet demand and expected retirements is a real problem. Lauer noted that he was interning for a job he would have already aged out of. In fact, roughly one-third of the current 13,800 air traffic controllers will turn over in the next five years. That is a real problem as noted in the U.S Department of Transportation’s Inspector General recent report.
The only way to adequately meet the modernization and staffing challenges is to adopt comprehensive reform. This would overhaul our nation’s approach to air traffic control to enhance safety and allow for reliable funding for long-term capital planning and systemic technology upgrades. An independent, not-for-profit corporation would have the ability to implement needed changes by avoiding bureaucratic red tape and receiving sustainable funding from user fees rather than be beholden to the political process.
When Lauer was in the tower, he saw just how difficult a job it is to safely guide thousands of planes through the sky. Our air traffic controllers do an incredible job every day. We need to give them the 21st century tools to make the skies even more safe and efficient. When that happens, the traveling public wins with reduced delays and more flight choices.
Please lend your support by going to this link and writing your Member of Congress. Ask them to vote for the AIRR Act and modernize air traffic control.