Strengthen Current Air Traffic Control System
October 2, 2017
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  • I have been a Montana pilot and aircraft owner for the past 56 years. My wife and I have flown our Cessna 180 aircraft to every country in North America except Nicaragua. We have hands-on experience with air traffic control systems in other countries.

    I would like to offer a few comments in regard to Billie Ruff’s opinion piece in the Sept. 24 Missoulian in which she supports the privatizing of our air traffic control (ATC) system (“Nation’s air traffic control systems need improvement”).

    After a thorough and detailed review of Chairman Bill Shuster’s, R-Pennsylvania, proposal, HR 2997, the “Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization Act” of 2017, which would remove our ATC operations from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and transfer it to a private, special interest board, I have concluded that these reforms will produce uncertainty and unintended consequences without achieving the desired outcomes.

    We enjoy the safest, most efficient air traffic control system in the world. If some improvements are needed, they can be best achieved at less cost by implementing improvements within the FAA rather than give the system to another entity with no proven track record.

    Instead of handing the treasure that is the U.S. air traffic control system over to a small board of private interests, akin to privatizing the interstate system and giving control of it to the top trucking companies, Congress, the FAA and aviation industry stakeholders should work together to set goals and make the key improvements our nation’s system needs.

    The data I have seen on the cause of airline delays is mainly the airline scheduling policy and inadequate facilities of the major airport terminals. The major cause of flight delays is not the ATC system itself.

    Also, the billions of dollars and time that would be spent transitioning our nation’s air traffic control system to a not-for-profit entity can be better applied to the continuing progress to update and modernize our air traffic control system — including meeting the FAA’s mandate to equip the general aviation fleet with see-and-avoid (ADSB) technology by 2020.

    Based on my life-long aviation experience, I believe we would be better served by strengthening the system we now have rather than trusting our aviation service and safety to an unproven entity.