NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Radical Change Needed In Air Traffic Management

July 17, 2001

At present growth rates, the 30 airports that now handle two-thirds of America's commercial air traffic will be completely gridlocked by the end of President Bush's first term in office, analysts warn. They place the blame squarely on the Federal Aviation Administration.

The General Accounting Office recently concluded: "Over the past two decades, FAA's modernization projects have experienced substantial cost overruns, lengthy delays, and significant performance shortfalls....We have designated it a high-risk information technology investment since 1995."

To find a solution, experts advise, look north to how Canada reformed its air traffic control system by creating the independent, user-owned Nav Canada in 1996.

  • Under Nav Canada, air traffic has increased by 20 percent, but Canada's air safety record has logged only two operating safety irregularities per 100,000 aircraft movements -- a record experts call sterling.
  • Nav Canada pays for itself through user fees that have declined over time -- while delays have also declined and customer service has been improved.
  • It has invested vast sums in new technologies, while cutting overhead, increasing staffing and raising the salaries of controllers.
  • So far, 17 nations have privatized air traffic control -- including Australia, Germany, Switzerland, Ireland and even Fiji.

A dozen former FAA officials have signed a Reason Foundation statement endorsing an air traffic control corporation modeled along the lines of Nav Canada.

Source: Editorial, "The Unfriendly Skies," Wall Street Journal, July 17, 2001.

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