It is time to let the flying public in on changes needed for our air traffic control system.


air traffic controlOur nation’s current air traffic control (ATC) system is operating on technology from the 1960s. Aging radars still slowly sweep to determine the location of aircraft. Controllers use scraps of paper to keep track of planes. And, aircraft radios still use old-fashion knobs and dials.

The country is spending far more than necessary for fuel because of the age-old way planes are routed across the country. In some cases, they fly zig-zagging along corridors that were created when bonfires were lit to let pilots see the next destination on a cross-country journey. Only a few years ago the air traffic controllers were sourcing vacuum tubes from the Czech Republic because no company in the USA manufactured them.

In a recent book, “Pinpoint,” by Greg Milner, the author quotes Charlie Trimble, one of the pioneers of Global Positioning System (GPS), “The FAA fulfills its mission by wrapping policies and procedures around obsolete technologies.”

It is time to enter the 21st Century. Enough with the obsolete. This giant air traffic control infrastructure project will:

  • Save millions of gallons of jet fuel
  • Help the environment with dramatic reductions in CO2 emissions
  • Save time on every flight through direct routing
  • Eliminate in-flight air traffic jams
  • Change pilot awareness by showing surrounding aircraft
  • Improve efficiency of airports by allowing up to 30 percent more take-offs and landings
  • Save millions of dollars in contracting costs through continuous funding.

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The new air traffic control system will benefit everyone. The Trump administration’s business approach with proposed long-term funding rather than the FAA’s bureaucratic instincts should help modernize our air traffic control infrastructure. After wasting $7.5 billion of consumer tax revenues keeping the old radar-and-paper-strip systems working over the past decade, it is time to get the job done properly.

Let’s make technology that the American public takes for granted and holds in its hands, in cell phones and GPS systems, available to our pilots and air traffic controllers. Airlines and the FAA need to begin educating travelers about the tangible benefits to modernizing the ATC system. The USA, once at the forefront of technology, is falling behind other nations when it comes to airspace management.

The problem is not money, but focus on getting the job done
Surprisingly, the problem with the implementation of NextGen, the term the FAA applies to their program to modernize the ATC, is not money. Congress has actually been generous with funding. Plus, this is a bipartisan issue — both Democrats and Republicans have ponied up billions of dollars to upgrade the system.

The drifting FAA bureaucracy, unlike the legendary NASA focus on innovation, is hindered further by a funding system that subjects our air traffic finances to the whims of Congressional bickering and an uncertain budgetary process. No long-term project can be completed without long-term funding.

The Trump administration recognizes the importance of this infrastructure project and the need for a steady, predictable funding stream. This is the kind of project that will have a major impact on the nation’s economy, which depends on aviation for everything from just-­in-­time inventories to travel and tourism.

It is time to speak to the taxpayers
The ATC project is the largest national infrastructure project since the development of the Interstate Highway System; its economic impact can be just as, if not more, significant. Travelers United believes that now is the time to allow this proven technology to be deployed to benefit the American public, whether they fly or not.