FAA 40 Years Behind on Air Traffic Control; Reforms Benefit Consumers

Today, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) released new analysis by CEI fellow and transportation expert Marc Scribner on H.R. 4441, the Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization (AIRR) Act. The bill, introduced by the chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), aims at reforming a much-outdated American air traffic control system and is comprised of the most significant aviation reform in nearly 40 years.

“Today, U.S. air traffic control is provided by the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Air Traffic Organization, which still relies on technologies and facilities created in the 1960s,” said Scribner. “This failure threatens to severely limit the growth of air travel and could lead to increased air traffic congestion, more flight delays and cancelations, wasted fuel, higher air fares, and lost economic activity.”

The FAA has been attempting to implement a much-needed 21st century modernization, known as the Next Generation Air Transportation System, or NextGen, with little success and massive cost overruns since 2003.

“The need for reform cannot be overstated. The FAA’s risk-averse agency culture has led to a loss of both technical and management expertise, too many overseers, and a lack of customer focus,” Scribner said. “The AIRR Act offers a unique opportunity to implement a badly needed modernization of our air traffic control system. The United States is the last developed country in the world to provide air navigation services via its national aviation safety regulator.”

Opponents include Delta Air Lines and the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), as well as some government employee unions, among others. However, the union representing air traffic controllers, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, has endorsed the AIRR Act.