There is an actual, credible move underway to privatize air-traffic control (ATC) – a long-overdue move to modernize a system where government’s hide-bound, politically-driven intellectual sclerosis isn’t merely slow, annoying and exquisitely expensive, but directly threatens lives:
Air-traffic control (ATC) is operated by the Federal Aviation Administration and funded by a combination of aviation taxes and a subsidy from general revenues. Ever since the Reagan administration, the FAA has been trying to modernize the ATC system, taking advantage of new technology to unclog the congested airways. Yet the system still relies on 1960s technology: radar instead of GPS to keep track of planes, paper flight strips with handwritten changes instead of electronic data on controllers’ screens, and unreliable voice radio instead of digital communication. Tens of billions have been spent on new computer systems and minor technology upgrades, but three decades of reports by the GAO and the Department of Transportation’s inspector general have documented repeated cost overruns and late deliveries and an ever-receding target date for true modernization.
The push isn’t new:
Dating back to Reagan’s transportation secretary, Jim Burnley, a growing consensus has emerged that air-traffic control is better viewed as a 24/7 high-tech service business than as a tax-funded, federally subsidized bureaucracy. National commissions, think-tank reports, and industry studies have all reached this conclusion, but reform efforts have gotten nowhere in Congress — until this year. In February, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee passed a bill that would remove the Air Traffic Organization (the operational arm of the FAA) from the FAA and reconstitute it as a self-funded, nonprofit, private company. It would be governed by a board representing all segments of aviation and regulated for safety — at arm’s length — by the remaining FAA, just as that agency regulates airports, airlines, and private pilots.
Read the entire article – which notes that many of the other nations that both the left and right admire have done the same, with great success (and arrested and diminishing cost (!) in recent years.
And then stop and think – where else would this work?