THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE: “Getting Washington out of the air traffic control business”
Weather causes some flight delays and disruptions. Others have a bureaucratic origin. The nation's air traffic control system, while safe, is gummed up by antiquated technology. American Airlines CEO Doug Parker said in a recent interview that a flight from Dallas to Philadelphia takes about 30 minutes longer than in 1979 because the system is “broken.” There is a fix, endorsed Monday by President Donald Trump: Reshape the Federal Aviation Administration by shifting air traffic control operations to a separate, nonprofit corporation. This new entity would fund itself by charging fees instead of having to beg Congress for money. With a more predictable revenue stream, it could do a much better job investing in new technology. The FAA, meanwhile, would continue to enforce safety regulations and provide grant money to airports. Trump hopes to put momentum behind legislation circling in Congress. The best argument for this change is the new organization would — finally — be able to provide proper funding for NextGen, the long-awaited, $40 billion air traffic system upgrade. NextGen involves switching from cumbersome radar and static-prone radios to satellite-based GPS tracking of aircraft and digital communications. This is a smarter way to fly because planes could be routed along more precise flight paths. Planes could fly safely while spaced closer together, too. The result: Passengers get to their destinations more quickly.