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68,000* flights landed safely today in the U.S.

That’s almost one per second. All landed safely because of a system of air traffic control maintained by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and its National Airspace System (NAS).  

Like so many of its daily accomplishments, government successes such as this are rarely reported. Once again a public good -- 49 million* safe takeoffs and landings each year -- remains invisible.   

Indeed, given noisy criticism of the supposed inefficiency of government operated air traffic control, you may not realize that 2015 was the safest of the past five years, with zero fatal accidents on U.S. carriers, and that 80% of delays are due to airlines themselves or to inclement weather.

Yet there is widespread talk of transferring operation of the NAS to the private sector. And it’s not just talk. In early 2016, Rep Bill Shuster (R-PA) brought the AIRR Act before Congress. The Act calls for all air traffic control in America to be turned over to a private air traffic control corporation which would be governed mostly by industry and private representatives. This would put some 38,000 current federal employees under the supervision of a private corporation. It would also take full free advantage of the taxpayer-funded $40 billion NextGen project that is now modernizing our airspace system.

Although Congress declined to vote on the AIRR Act last spring, the campaign to reassign control of our busy skies and runways has not run out of fuel. As head of the House Transportation Committee and as an early Trump supporter, Rep Shuster has been making headway, having talked to Trump several times and recently met with Secretary of Transportation designee Elaine Chao.
 
Opponents of the proposed privatization are concerned about flying safety and higher ticket prices, among other things. Due to reliance on user fees, the costs of the privatized system would be borne by passengers. Others point out that Wall Street and large corporations stand to gain from windfalls like multi-billion dollar contract awards for system financing and operations.
 
* Statistics are from: FAA Air Traffic Activity System
VIDEO
U.S. Flight Patterns Over a Single Day 
ATC privatization: a solution in search of a problem?
The Hill | September 30, 2016 
"A key question should be, what improvements would U.S. ATC privatization set out to achieve? Surprisingly, proponents have not articulated any metrics on what would be achieved through privatization. Perhaps that is because there is no proof that privatization would either save operators money (one of Delta’s arguments) or reduce flight time and delays (which place a drag on the U.S. economy)."

Don't Privatize Air Traffic Control 
The New York Times - Editorial Board | February 15, 2016
"... there is no credible evidence that a privately operated system would be better than the current one, which is the busiest and safest in the world. And there is plenty of reason to believe it would be worse."

“The privatization bill also gives short shrift to passengers’ interests. The new air traffic operator is to have a 13-member board of directors, with four of them representing airlines, three representing the owners and operators of private planes and one for aerospace manufacturers. Just two people would be appointed by the secretary of transportation to stand up for the public, with the other seats going to the chief executive and unions.” 

“... Even more galling, the new company would not have to pay anything to acquire the towers, equipment and other assets of the existing system. The government has spent an estimated $53.5 billion on that system in just the last 20 years, with the money coming from passenger fees and tax revenue.”

Trump could privatize nation's air traffic controllers
Reuters | December 8, 2016
"The chances that the federal government could hand off the U.S. air traffic control system to private management are increasing, say advocates who report they are getting supportive feedback from President-elect Donald Trump and his team.”

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The Public Goods Post has been created by June Sekera, 
Founder and Director of the Public Goods Institute; and Research Fellow at the 
Global Development And Environment Institute, Tufts University.

The Public Goods Post is produced by Daniel Agostino, Digital Media Producer and Editor.

To contact us: Editors@publicgoodspost.org

Copyright © 2017 Public Goods Post, All rights reserved.


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