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Air Traffic Safety Intact

New flight services stations will save $190 million per year

Geoffrey Segal
October 21, 2005

Letter to the Editor

Bangor Daily News

The editorial, "Wrong Flight Plan" (BDN, Oct. 14), is unfortunately misguided and uninformed.

Prior to the contract with Lockheed Martin, the technology used at flight service stations facilities was obsolete and very labor-intensive. However, most of the services they provide can easily be provided online, rather than by voice over the phone.

With the introduction of state-of-the-art equipment to maximize online services, the contract will save an average of $190 million per year. Even the principal private pilot group, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, supported the competition from day one, and cheered the results in its publications and on its Web site.

As for the 2,500 existing staff, downsizing will occur with minimal layoffs. First, all current employees will be offered positions in the new consolidated facilities.

Second, about half the staff will become eligible to retire over the next several years, as the consolidation takes place.

Third, the FAA is encouraging those who are qualified to apply to become air traffic controllers (where thousands need to be hired over the next decade to replace upcoming retirees).

Finally, there are other vacancies within its Air Traffic Organization.

The United States is playing catchup to the larger wave of reform in air traffic control operations. Since 1987 a total of 40 air traffic control systems have been converted from a department of government to a commercial entity - including Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, Italy and Spain.

Has safety been compromised? No. Indeed, in April a team from the Government Accountability Office reported that systems in Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom all have maintained safety, controlled costs, and improved efficiency.

All five have invested in new technologies that reduced costs by increasing the productivity of controllers and reducing delays, which generally resulted in lower fees for major airlines.

Geoffrey Segal
Director of Government Reform
Reason Foundation
Falls Church, Va.



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