Air traffic control privatisation blueprint

Political observers say momentum has been building in the U.S. Congress and the Bush administration for privatisation of the air traffic control system, as public frustration over air traffic delays in America has mounted. In addition, a number of large airlines have come out in favour of privatisation recently.

The Reason Public Policy Institute recently released a study that examines how air traffic privatisation has worked in two dozen nations and provides a blueprint for U.S. privatisation. It recommends that the U.S. look to Canada's successful privatisation for clues on how to accomplish it in the United states.

  • The institute recommends replacing the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration with a non-profit corporation to run air traffic control.

  • A 15-member board of directors representing airlines, airports, air traffic control workers and private pilots would direct operations – but the government would still maintain oversight of safety and fund safety-related expenses.

  • The current passenger ticket tax would be replaced by user fees collected from airlines and other jet operators to fund air-traffic services.

  • Private planes would pay an annual fee for air-traffic services instead of the current fuel tax.

    An air-traffic corporation could borrow money and more quickly install modern technology, thus reducing delays and improving safety. Several nations, including Canada, Australia and New Zealand, have increased the capacity of their air-travel systems by deploying satellite-based technologies far more advanced than the radar system currently used in the U.S.

    A privatisation bill is likely to be introduced in Congress for the first time, advocates say, though its chances for passage this year are considered slim. Two politically powerful organisations, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, are dead set against privatisation.

    Source: Scott McCartney, Air-Traffic System Report Calls for Privatization, Wall Street Journal, February 22, 2001.

    For WSJ text (requires subscription)

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