ATC reorganization will move technology forward
Travelers United has been working on modernizing air traffic control (ATC) for more than half a decade. During that time Congress and the FAA have worked on a program to introduce new technology into our system. At a time when most Americans have a smart phone in their pockets, our ATC system still operates with WWII technology and flies routes across the country once marked by bonfires for pilots of Charles Lindbergh’s era.
NextGen, as the effort has been dubbed, has been a work in progress since 2003. Billions of dollars have been spent. And, the US still operates an ATC system that is rooted in the 1960s rather than the 21st Century. ATC reorganization may be the best solution to what our government has not been able to do.
Another General Accountability Office showing continuing problems with the current modernization efforts has been hailed by some as proof that the FAA is succeeding in its NextGen efforts. What the report actually concludes is that the system is falling behind more and more and that the organization of the FAA is counterproductive to completing ATC modernization. It points to needed ATC reorganizataion.
The latest GAO report, once again, outlines the ongoing problems with the current ATC modernization process hindered by ATC reorganization.
- Note: Maintaining the current FAA efforts anchored to the political process is the largest problem with the completion of this ATC overhaul. Congress has gone years without completing the budget process.
- Future funding — problems with the budget process will continue without a change that allows for continuous funding removed from the politics and bureaucratic rules of government spending. From 2007 to 2016, the FAA bill that controls spending for NextGen was frozen 23 times. This stops ATC modernization progress in its tracks.
- Equipage — whether aircraft owners equip their aircraft to use NextGen — has been a problem since the 2012 FAA bill. The main issue is that airlines do not trust the FAA to complete their promised modernization on time. Therefore, they do not invest money. The only airline to fully equip its fleet based on 2012 FAA promises, Southwest, has financially suffered because of their actions.
- FAA’s leadership stability will be strengthened when it is removed from the political structure.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) study, showing that the cost to the public will be in the neighborhood of $100 billion, has been debunked by the CBO itself for not taking into account a shift in how air traffic fees will be collected.
Claims that unions do not support the ATC reorganization are misleading. Every union that works closely with the ATC system supports the proposed changes and are eager to proceed. Airline pilots and their unions have come out in support of the ATC reorganization proposed changes.
Travelers United is a seasoned, knowledgeable and trusted consumer voice that supports the proposed ATC reorganization. Plus, Travelers United holds that the new ATC system with its advanced technology is needed for the coming integration of unmanned aerial systems into our national airspace system.
Some have said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” Travelers United is convinced that the current ATC reorganization efforts being debated in Congress will change the organization of ATC operations to allow positive results and allow the US to leave our present world of WWII radar and paper strips behind.
Charlie Leocha is the President of Travelers United. He has been working in Washington, DC, for the past 11 years with Congress, the Department of Transportation and industry stakeholders on travel issues. He was the first consumer representative to the Advisory Committee for Aviation Consumer Protections appointed by the Secretary of Transportation from 2012 through 2018.