Printer Friendly

Congress must modernize air traffic control.

As forecasts predict air travel will increase by 65 percent over the next two decades, the need to upgrade America's antiquated air traffic control system has never been greater.

While the Federal Aviation Administration has done a good job of making our air traffic control system the world's safest, our aviation infrastructure continues to rely on WWII-era ground-based radar technology. Although the FAA has attempted to transition to the satellite-based NextGen system over the past decade, desperately needed technology upgrades remain years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget because of the agency's uncertain funding structure, which is subject to congressional politics that make long-term capital investments difficult to complete.

Continued use of this outdated air traffic control technology robs flyers in Illinois of valuable time and money annually. Last year alone, there were 35,335 statewide delays attributed to our National Airspace System (which includes air traffic control), costing passengers flying in and out of Illinois $148.6 million, including lost wages.

The solution lies with the 21st Century AIRR Act, a bipartisan proposal that will create a federally chartered nonprofit to oversee America's air traffic control system. By divesting air traffic control operations from the FAA, the agency can focus on what it does best u overseeing and regulating safety u while leaving the streamlined entity to manage the funding and implementation of overdue upgrades.

A modernized air traffic control system will benefit all air travelers. Modernization will not only reduce delays by allowing flights to be more closely sequenced but also shorten flight times by implementing more direct routes.

Change can be hard, particularly when powerful special interests fear that change will expose just how much the status quo benefits them. In this situation, that group is the wealthiest one percent who use more air traffic control services than they pay for, all at the expense of the average passengers who subsidize their operations. And they will say whatever they must to stop this much-needed change that benefits all flyers.

Though the private jet lobbyists would have you believe the airlines will dominate the new board, the truth is that a diverse 13-seat board representing all aviation stakeholders u including airports, airlines, controllers, pilots, general aviation interests, and regional and cargo airlines u will oversee the new nonprofit. All board members will have an equal vote and would be bound by a legally enforceable fiduciary responsibility to act in the best interests of air traffic control operations.

And despite repeated assertions to the contrary by the wealthy private jet folks, the AIRR Act would protect the interests of small and rural airports like Campbell Airport in Grayslake. For example, the secretary of transportation would be required to review and approve any proposed air traffic control service reductions to Campbell Airport.

The AIRR Act will also maintain and strengthen all current contract tower programs and provide for the implementation of remote tower technology, which will offer smaller airports like Campbell increased air traffic control benefits at lower costs.

The proposal also safeguards general aviation, maintaining unrestricted access to airspace and airports for general aviation pilots and exempting the general aviation community from paying user fees. General aviation and business aviation will also each hold one of the 13 seats on the nonprofit board.

Congress must pass the AIRR Act now to create a modern and upgraded aviation infrastructure that is not undermined by the costly inefficiencies in the current system.

More than 60 countries around the world have done something similar. It is time the U.S. joins them and adopts a reliable, cost-effective system that meets the needs of American air travelers.

Sean Williams is vice president of state and local government affairs at Airlines for America
COPYRIGHT 2018 Paddock Publications
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2018 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Publication:Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Date:Jan 22, 2018
Previous Article:Northwest suburbs in 60 seconds.
Next Article:Pay attention to facts on climate.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2022 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters |