‘Most significant reforms in a generation’ needed to correct US federal aviation mistakes, modernise air traffic control

The Eno Center for Transportation is calling for taking US air traffic control out of the Federal Aviation Administration in favour of either a government corporation or an independent, non-profit organisation.

In a newly released report Time for Reform: Delivering Modern Air Traffic Control, the US transport think-tank is also proposing a new funding structure that relies on user fees, rather than the current mix of taxes and general funds.

“Major changes are needed because the federal government has proved unable to expediently modernise ATC,” said Robert Puentes, president and chief executive of the Eno Center for Transportation. “Unlike much of the developed world, the US still relies on World War II-era radar to guide aircraft. Without significant changes, the American air traffic control system will not be able to cope with expected traffic growth, new complexities in the global airspace, or critical upgrades.”

The report finds that spinning-off air traffic control would create a more stable system that the current one, which is subject to political uncertainty. A separate system would not depend on annual budget appropriations, nor subject to budget sequesters and government shutdowns. In the long run this will make running ATC cheaper, providing benefits for the economy and the travelling public.

“Only an entity outside the direct control of government will have the necessary independence to implement modern technologies at the pace needed to meet demand,” said Rui Neiva, the report’s co-author.

In addition, Eno recommends that funding for the system should be replaced with user fees, as opposed to the current mix of taxes and general revenues.

The Eno Center for Transportation is an independent, nonpartisan think tank that promotes policy innovation and leads professional development in the transportation industry. Eno’s Aviation Working Group is an advisory group on all matters related to aviation policy and practice. It provides Eno with insights, knowledge, feedback, and guidance on how to continue to lead the world in aviation safety, modernisation, and innovation.

To learn more and download the full report, click here.

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