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Reason Foundation

Communications breakdown

Ted Balaker
September 15, 2004, 10:01am

Two separate human errors caused a breakdown in radio communications that brought Southern California's major airports to a near-stop Tuesday and led to at least five instances in which planes came too close, Federal Aviation Administration officials said ... In two cases, large airliners – a UPS cargo plane and a Northwest Airlines flight bound for Southern California airports – came much closer to small corporate jets than federal guidelines allow, requiring at least one pilot to take corrective action. FAA officials repeated Wednesday that they did not believe lives were ever at risk. The agency's radio system in Palmdale shut itself down Tuesday afternoon because a technician failed to reset an internal clock – a routine maintenance procedure required every 30 days by the FAA. Then a backup system failed, also as a result of technician error, officials said. Private operation of air traffic control is pretty common in smaller airports. If similar problems occurred at one of those facilities, chances are good that they'd be upheld as evidence of privatization's failure. There might even be a push to unprivatize the facility. Will the LAX problems (not to mention the FAA's long history of sluggish modernization) be held up as government failure? Will they lead to a discussion about the benefits of privatization (or at least corporatization the way Canada has done)? Probably not. We are, after all, more tolerant of government failure. Read the whole LA Times story, here.

Ted Balaker is Producer


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