Out of Control Policy Blog

FAA Promotes Future Air Traffic Control System on YouTube

Via Wired, I’m glad to see the FAA putting out a fairly accessible video explaining the benefits of NextGen.  This is a much-needed transformation of air traffic control that offers much-improved air travel. However, it is unlikely to be implemented on time or on-budget as long as the FAA’s Air Traffic Organization remains part of a tax-funded bureaucracy, held hostage to the federal budget process. Every leading western nation except the United States has “commercialized” its ATC system over the past 20 years, allowing it to finance major modifications by going to the bond market, and letting it make commercial decisions without political interference. We should do likewise in this country.

Robert Poole is Searle Freedom Trust Transportation Fellow and Director of Transportation Policy

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Comments to "FAA Promotes Future Air Traffic Control System on YouTube":

Thomas | May 7, 2009, 8:54am | #


NextGen is slow because the monopoly provider of ATC (the FAA) is trying to figure out how to ensure that its services remain central. The trouble is that new technologies would enable the airlines to handle most of the tasks themselves. Much of the delay on ADS-B is due to the FAA trying to turn it into an updated version of the radar system, when the natural use of the technology is to provide self-separation capability directly to the airplanes. The monopoly is trying to defend itself - that's what monopolies do.

When are you going to move into the 20th Century and start advocating decentralized, competitive ATC services? You are effectively advocating that we should turn ATC into the new Post Office - a government-mandated monopoly that is allowed to strangle competition and (unlike the Post Office) demand that "customers" use its services whether they want to or not. In addition, you advocate that control of this commercial monopoly should be handed off to a body effectively controlled by a few airlines - a situation that could not fail to be anti-competitive.

You point to the rest of the world as your example - but GA was essentially stillborn in most of those places, and the reported impact of airline-controlled ATC has not been to produce a flourishing of it.

Traffic routing is something about which network engineers have learned a great deal in the past 20 years. Command-and-control ATC is based on dated thinking, rather like switched telephone services. In the internet era, decentralizing air traffic control - often, all the way to the individual airplane - makes more sense, and centralizing above the level of the airport should not be necessary. With decentralization it's much easier to introduce competition. Competition, not commercialization of monopolies, is the key to efficiency and quality.

Robert, you have devoted your career to free minds and free markets. Why, when it comes to ATC, are you advocating a move from policitally-controlled monopoly (bad) to commercially-controlled monopoly (the only thing worse) instead of toward a new conception that enables markets to emerge?

These recycled ideas from FAA and the incumbent airlines aren't worthy of you. Please, show some thought leadership.



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