News / USA

    Plan to Spin Off Air Traffic Control Generates Turbulence

    FILE - An air traffic controller works in the tower at Newark Liberty International Airport, May 21, 2015, in Newark, N.J. The Federal Aviation Administration demonstrated to media a system, called Data Comm, that will allow for electronic communication between air traffic controllers and pilots aimed to cut delays.
    FILE - An air traffic controller works in the tower at Newark Liberty International Airport, May 21, 2015, in Newark, N.J. The Federal Aviation Administration demonstrated to media a system, called Data Comm, that will allow for electronic communication between air traffic controllers and pilots aimed to cut delays.
    Associated Press

    The air traffic control system that choreographs the roughly 7,000 aircraft in U.S. skies at any given moment is the most complex, but also one of the safest, in the world - and rarely a thought in the minds of the millions of travelers who rely on it.

    A Republican House committee chairman is launching a push this week to take away control of that system from the government and hand it to a nonprofit corporation directed by the airlines, airports, labor unions, business aircraft operators and private pilots, among others. The idea is already generating turbulence as lawmakers and lobbyists line up for and against it.

    House Transportation committee chairman Bud Shuster, R-Pa., said last summer when he announced his idea that the U.S. is lagging behind other nations in the transition from a radar-based system to one based on satellites.

    It's questionable whether the present system is capable of sustaining current demands, let alone future growth, he said, arguing that delays already cost passengers and the economy $30 billion a year.

    The Federal Aviation Administration, which operates the present system, has been working on its "NextGen" modernization program for more than a decade and says much progress has been made. But airlines say they have yet to see significant benefits from the billions of dollars spent on modernization.

    The agency's case hasn't been helped by reports from the department's inspector general that say system costs have doubled over two decades while productivity declined, and improvements ordered by Congress were ineffective. Some of the nation's busiest air traffic facilities don't have enough controllers while others have too many.

    Under Shuster's plan the system would still be financed with taxes on plane tickets, aviation fuel and other fees. The private corporation that directs it would use the money to float bonds to help pay for long-term modernization, free of worry about whether Congress would approve its budget. The FAA would continue to enforce air safety rules.

    "The FAA suffers from an unstable procurement system and an unpredictable federal funding structure that hampers the agency" and keeps it from staying current with new technology, said David Grizzle, a former head of FAA's air traffic organization and a proponent of privatization.

    U.S. airlines, with the notable exception of Delta, are the lobbying muscle behind Shuster's proposal. They've been pushing the idea since at least the mid-1990s, but it hasn't taken off in part because of solid opposition from the air traffic controllers union and its Democratic allies in Congress.

    Now, that may be changing. Paul Rinaldi, president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, has said he's withholding judgment on privatization until he sees the details of Shuster's plan.

    Congressional money spats unrelated to air traffic control shut down the FAA briefly in 2011, and similar infighting led to controllers being temporarily furloughed in 2013, snarling air traffic across the country. Union officials now say removing air traffic operations from Congress' oversight might provide greater stability.

    Shuster's Senate counterpart, Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., also favors privatization and has kept an eye on developments in the House. But in both chambers, the senior Democrats on the committees - Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon and Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida - are opposed. Privatization could "not only put lives at risk, it's also an example of fixing a problem that doesn't exist," Nelson said.

    There's also bipartisan opposition to privatization from the top members of the Senate Appropriations Committee and its transportation subcommittee, who would lose some of their legislative turf if the FAA budget were removed from their control.

    Other anti-privatization arguments are coming from businesses that use their own planes to fly employees around, and air taxi services that fear airlines and the large airports that serve them will dominate the new corporation's board. Airlines could push those smaller services out of large airports to make room for more airliners, or force them to pay a bigger share of the system's costs.

    You May Like

    Video Democrats Clinton, Kaine Offer 'Very Different Vision' Than Trump

    In a jab at Trump, Clinton says her team wants to 'build bridges, not walls'; Obama Hails Kaine's record; Trump calls Kaine a 'job-killer'

    Turkey Wants Pakistan to Close Down institutions, Businesses Linked to Gulen

    Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades

    AU Passport A Work in Progress

    Who will get the passport and what the benefits are still need to be worked out

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora