News Release

With Travel Delays Worsening, Top Experts Call for Dramatic Air Traffic Changes

Coalition warns status quo will lead to rationing airspace

Washington, DC (September 19, 2007) – A group of nine leading aviation experts, including a former U.S. Secretary of Transportation, a former Federal Aviation Administration Administrator, and the architect of airline deregulation, is calling for significant changes to the nation’s air traffic control system. They stepped forward because “Congress has not realistically addressed” the reforms needed to successfully implement a re-designed and much higher-capacity air traffic control system that could eliminate today’s record-setting airline delays.

The group of prominent experts says the FAA’s Air Traffic Organization “is not up to the task of making the kind of paradigm shift” needed to modernize the nation’s air traffic system, replacing a manual, radar-based system with 21st-century GPS and automation. As a result, the group is urging four broad reforms:

  1. The Air Traffic Organization (ATO) should be enabled to run like a business, with a chief executive officer who has the normal powers and duties of a CEO, including the power to hire and fire staff and hold them accountable for results. It should also have a board of directors representing its customers and other stakeholders.
  2. In order to improve safety and accountability, the Air Traffic Organization should be separated from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), as an independent entity The coalition says the FAA reauthorization bills currently being debated in Congress would simply maintain the status quo, which would cripple the nation’s air travel system within the next two decades. The experts warn that without serious reforms, the air traffic system’s inability to accommodate growing air travel will force the U.S. to ration its airspace. Rationing would result in considerably fewer flights and significantly higher costs and ticket prices for air travelers and private planes. within the Department of Transportation. The FAA would regulate the ATO’s safety on an arm’s length basis, as has become the global standard. This would allow the many needed decisions regarding safety and capacity in the new system to be made more transparently.
  3. The Air Traffic Organization should be funded by a steady, reliable revenue stream that isn’t subject to politics. As such, the ATO should be funded directly by aviation customers – airlines, business jets and private pilots – with federal general fund support limited to public-service functions such as paying for military use of the civilian air traffic control system.
  4. The Air Traffic Organization should be allowed to consolidate, reorganize and improve its facilities and equipment, in the interests of its customers, as well as reconfiguring airspace consistent with NextGen capabilities.

The nine experts conclude, “America needs a 21st-century air traffic management system, and we need it as soon as possible.” The aviation leaders who signed the statement are:

Langhorne Bond, former Administrator, FAA (1977-1981)
Jim Burnley, partner, Venable LLP; former U.S. Secretary of Transportation (1987-1989)
Aaron Gellman, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern; founder, GRA, Inc.
Jim Haynes, CEO, Avgroup, Inc.; former chairman, National Air Transportation Association
Jonathan Howe, former president, National Business Aircraft Association; former director general of Airports Council International
Alfred Kahn, National Economic Research Associates; former chairman, Civil Aeronautics Board (1977-1978)
Clint Oster, School of Public & Environmental Affairs, Indiana University; former research director, Aviation Safety Commission (1987-1988)
David Plavin, former president, Airports Council International-North America
James Wilding, former president and CEO, Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority

“What’s encouraging about this effort is that it shows broad support for basic air traffic control reform among a wide range of aviation experts,” said Robert Poole, director of transportation studies at Reason Foundation. “Fixing the system is not just a matter of new technology. NextGen is a good concept, but it is unlikely to be implemented successfully by an unreformed FAA. These experts have pointed the way to the fundamental changes needed to give us an air traffic provider that is up to the challenge.”

Full Statement Online

The full statement is online here:

Event Today

Several members of the group will be speaking at the Capitol Building, room HC-9, in Washington, DC, at 11 a.m. Eastern Time today.

About Reason

Reason Foundation is a nonprofit think tank dedicated to advancing free minds and free markets. Reason produces respected public policy research on a variety of issues and publishes the critically acclaimed monthly magazine, Reason. For more information, please visit


Robert Poole, Director of Transportation Studies, Reason Foundation, (310) 292-2386
Chris Mitchell, Director of Media Relations, Reason Foundation, (310) 367-6109