How did the U.S. fall behind Canada in air traffic safety?

From Sean Higgins article in The Washington Examiner:

We wouldn't have to run a lot of these risks in the first place if the United States used the most up-to-date air traffic control technology. Global positioning systems have revolutionized air travel, overtaking the old radar-based technology. But progress in adopting the new technology has been slow.

"If we had these [GPS] systems in place, we could reduce congestion and improve air traffic control and dispatching so that the likelihood of these situations occurring would be reduced," said Marc Scribner, transportation policy analyst for the free-market Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Why the FAA is so slow to change is a classic tale of big-government inertia: layer upon layer of regulatory red tape, cost overruns and public-sector unions being given virtual veto power over any change. Meanwhile the efforts to make air traffic safer languish.


"The unions are concerned that a true computer-driven digital aviation monitoring will make quite a few of their employees redundant," CEI's Scribner said.

The unions have major say in how those projects go forward. The 2012 FAA Modernization and Reform Act directs the agency to take input from labor and industry to develop a consensus on realignment.

Rinaldi explained how his union got two proposed facility realignments to be put on hold. "Both proposals were evaluated, first by the FAA, then jointly by the FAA and NATCA. The collaborative review of all of the associated data resulted in a different conclusion than the review without NATCA's collaboration." Funny how that works out.

CEI's Scribner was careful to point out that the union was just one part of the delays. The restructuring of the entire air traffic control system is a vast project and the FAA is "bungling" it overall.

By contrast, Canada already began implementing its own GPS-based system a decade ago. "Canada — socialist Canada — privatized their air traffic control system in the mid-'90s," Scribner noted with some irony. "But here in the free-market bastion of the United States, we are behind."