In an op-ed published in the Globe and Mail on Wednesday (Dec. 27), Harvard professor Jeffrey Frankel suggests that the FAA is ill-served to provide air traffic control services in the United States.
Frankel says that the typically unstable funding the U.S. government provides the FAA makes it difficult for the agency to plan for growth through the recruitment and training of more air traffic controllers and to update old technology. “Despite big advances in computing and satellite-based telecommunications, controllers continue to rely on systems that date back to the 1950s,” Frankel wrote. “Shockingly, some still use paper strips to keep track of planes,”he added. He says that there is currently a shortfall of 3,000 controllers in the U.S., and that those currently employed are overworked. He cites a significant increase over the last two years in “airport near-misses” to bolster his argument.
Citing the FAA’s policy of providing equal access to all aircraft, regardless of whether they are an airliner or a private aircraft with few passengers on board, Frankel states that a user-fee system modelled after Nav Canada’s would discourage private aircraft operators from accessing the system at the low cost they currently enjoy.
“As it stands, the system heavily subsidizes small private jets at the expense of harried commercial passengers, who are forced to pay substantial taxes and fees,” Frankel wrote. “Despite representing about one-sixth of the flights managed by the FAA, private jets contribute only 2 per cent of the agency’s tax revenue.”
Frankel considers Nav Canada to be a successful model to emulate.