As the Federal Aviation Administration prepares to close 149 air traffic control towers as part of over $600 million in spending cuts required by the sequester, a new Reason Foundation study shows how the FAA could save $1 billion a year by consolidating air traffic control centers and Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) facilities.
More than 45 percent of U.S. air traffic control centers and 39 percent of TRACONs are over 35 years old. Instead of spending money upgrading theses old and often isolated air traffic facilities, the Reason Foundation plan shows how air traffic control operations could be merged into large hubs that would guide air traffic throughout regions of the country.
The Reason Foundation plan would generate approximately $1.7 billion in one-time savings by closing over 100 existing air traffic facilities. Going forward, productivity gains and reduced maintenance and facility costs would save $1 billion annually.
“The days of air traffic controllers needing to be right below specific portions of the airspace are over,” said Robert Poole, director of transportation at Reason Foundation. “Today’s technology allows air traffic controllers to guide planes from anywhere. The U.S. air traffic system needs to embrace an air traffic redesign that puts productivity ahead of location.”
“Without consolidating airspace and air traffic facilities, NextGen is at risk of becoming merely a very costly upgrade of hardware and software, without the large productivity gains that should constitute a major portion of the business case for this transition,” said Michael Harrison, one of the study’s authors and former director of architectural and systems engineering at the FAA. “And without a timely commitment to large-scale facility consolidation, the Air Traffic Organization will be forced to spend billions in coming decades refurbishing and rehabilitating aging and unneeded facilities. Consequently, the time for action on these issues is now.”
Robert Poole’s “Air Traffic Control Newsletter” is here.
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Chris Mitchell, Director of Communication, Reason Foundation (310) 367-6109