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