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Privatize the US ATC System?

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It's been proposed and the airlines seem to like the idea. I don't have an opinion  on this idea one way or the other, but I know that AVSim  has real life commercial  pilots and controllers that post here and I just wondered what they think about this.

Please try to keep the political stuff to a minimum.

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 I think this would be good for aviation. The current system is outdated and government is too ponderous and covered with red tape to ever get things done in an expeditious manner. By privatizing the system, I believe it will open up competition which always results in better product and service. Net result is good for pilots and aviation in general.

 

Vic

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From ABCNews:

The general aviation community is gravely concerned about their place in the nation's airspace under an air traffic control system where big airlines hold the most power. The proposed non-profit corporation would be controlled by 13 board members; the number of pre-determined seats belonging to major airlines is double that of the general aviation community, which represents 26 times more aircraft than commercial carriers, according to the FAA.

Opponents of the plan, including private pilots and small airports, are also concerned that high user fees will create an industry dominated by large airlines that can afford such costs, leaving small businesses and towns behind.

The major domestic carriers all support the privatization plan, with the notable exception of Delta Air Lines. Delta released a study in 2016 indicating such a move could increase traveler costs by 20 to 29 percent.

“Proponents have claimed that privatization would lead to cost savings for consumers,” the study stated. “But no evidence has yet been produced to show that privatization would reduce costs. In fact, nations that have privatized ATC have seen operational costs increase at a much higher rate than has been seen in the U.S. under the FAA.”

I'm not keen on the idea of the major airlines holding far more seats in the non-profit corporation than the GA community.  Seems to me just another attempt of the rich mega-corps to grab more power... and wealth.

Greg

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2 hours ago, vgbaron said:

 

Had to throw that in here didn't ya?

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3 hours ago, vgbaron said:

 I think this would be good for aviation. The current system is outdated and government is too ponderous and covered with red tape to ever get things done in an expeditious manner. By privatizing the system, I believe it will open up competition which always results in better product and service. Net result is good for pilots and aviation in general.

 

Vic

Maybe, but the specific proposal is to hand over ATC to a single organization, not several. The real question should be "what is the justification here, who benefits?" It won't be General Aviation, it won't be Air Traffic Controllers, it certainly won't be pilots. Our current system is the safest, most efficient it's ever been with fewer and fewer people. The solution to this isn't a tumultuous transition to a new system with new hiccups. Compare the fallback plans of ATC loss, a relatively smooth process, to how airlines have handled IT outages.

 

Privatizing our ATC would turn it into something like our national power grid: a hodgepodge system of private companies with no consistent coordinated plan, ruled either by one company and "managers" or, if other proposals surface, the even worse series of multiple, independent contractors.

 

Right now the FAA does an amazing job managing air traffic, and technologies like ERAM and ADS-B are letting is cram more and more traffic into tighter spaces that increase capacity and reduce noise and climate impact. ATC is a perfect example of infrastructure, something that is the backbone of our nation's engine and not something that should ever be concerned with making enough money in a quarter. 

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The non profit he proposed has to sell bonds to raise funding.

What happens if you fail to meet needs?

Upgrade the system, yes.
Take this route? No way.

 

Is anyone here willing to pay to upgrade? Most people dislike taxes and do not consider what those taxes actually pay for. We see the local spending, but when you get from LA to NY in 5 hours for less money than it cost in 1970 you can hardly complain. We take too much for granted.

Yes, convert to a bilateral approach - both radar which is very hard to disrupt and GPS.
There are things business cannot do for us as "the public" that only government can.

I AM the government.

 

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44 minutes ago, vgbaron said:

 I believe it will open up competition which always results in better product and service.

except it's not creating competition really.., it's handing the airlines control of the ATC management instead of the government. there won't be a competing, better, safer, cheaper ATC grid to fly with. it will just be the same one that your taxes paid for already, except now the people running the board will be able to tweak it for profit margins instead of safety margins.

that may not be bad, i strongly believe that they will still consider safety!  killing your customers is bad business... but it's also been shown that cutting corners wherever possible to create shareholder value is par for the course when there's so much money on the line.

they cite the slow nexgen rollout as an example of where to reduce red tape. but it's not clear how their new setup will expedite that process or address whatever is making it slow in the first place. around here it is things like a barrage of lawsuits from residents whenever flight paths change. i really don't know what else they are proposing or how it changes things, like more GPS-based routings or something? i thought VOR and NDBs were getting turned off in many places already as part of a gradual decommissioning. what's so wrong about the process now that would be better under a corporate structure?

unfortunately none of the articles i saw about this today really had much in the way of actual aviation details. seems like a pretty curious issue to study.

the whole "your flights will finally be on time again" claim sounds great and all, but how many of those delays are from problems inherent in the ATC system? i'd guess that substantially they are due to mechanical failure or weather. and i don't know how often delays really happen but i'm unconvinced that it is some epidemic right now. the system is already one of the safest in the world so how will these changes affect that positively?

maybe somebody who flies in canada can chime in because they did switch to a nonprofit corp like this! is it really better? any different? maybe it's great for airlines in a way that will benefit consumers, i dunno... but without a compelling and detailed argument about how this will improve things i would be highly suspicious. you can be sure that when 'privatization' is mentioned that somebody, somewhere, is really looking forward to making a buck off if it.

cheers,-andy crosby

 

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I will say just look at the ATC system in Europe. I am a CFI and when I went to Europe and you have to pay for every landing, touch & go's. There is a fee for using ATC, lots of students come over to the U.S. to learn to fly as its less expensive. This will be very bad for general aviation and I hope AOPA jumps right into this one. I am teaching in Florida and we have a ATC tower when is run by contract and the controllers there do not want to see ATC privatized. 

 

JeffG  

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Frankly, I don't believe that politics have a place on the flight sim boards. It's a slippery slope, and once one starts it opens up to people posting a wide range of personal views on may different topics.

Let's keep this about aviation/flight simulation.

 

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2 hours ago, Pilot53 said:

Had to throw that in here didn't ya? 

you bit on it, didn't ya? Now let's move back to the subject at hand. I'll edit it out if it makes you feel better.

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I think ATC competition is a great idea!

LAX Approach: "... now up is Direct SEAVU IAF, do I hear $200? DAL 23 $300, ACA 17 $400, do I hear $500? SOLD AF1 for $1000.  Next up for bid, #1 for departure at 25 Right..."

Mike

 

 

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17 minutes ago, Mike777 said:

LAX Approach: "... now up is Direct SEAVU IAF, do I hear $200? DAL 23 $300, ACA 17 $400, do I hear $500? SOLD AF1 for $1000.  Next up for bid, #1 for departure at 25 Right..."

Privatizing ATC... what could possibly go wrong? :laugh:

Greg

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It is how we do it in New Zealand since 1987 (https://www.airways.co.nz/)  and it works very well. I wouldn't mention Trump at all as privatization has been talked about and already implemented since decades before his Presidency, and actually works better in other parts of the world.

The advantages is it allows for better innovation, New Zealand is the first airspace the use Oceanic Control System which is now used by the United States. If it wasn't for us you wouldn't have what you have. 

Canada also has NAVCAN which also works very well

What this comes down to is if the USA is capable of handling a transition to privatization with all issues considered in the current system, this process would be complex.

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21 minutes ago, ytzpilot said:

What this comes down to is if the USA is capable of handling a transition to privatization with all issues considered in the current system, this process would be complex.

Exactly, and no.

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The proposal has been kicking around for at least a couple of years.  Today's announcement wasn't about a new policy, more a statement of principles.  Theater, not anything decisive.

From what I've been reading, AOPA and EAA are strongly opposed, and the airlines are in favor, for reasons already laid out here.

 

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Mmmm, privatised commercial ATC... 'November one two three x-ray, you are cleared to land the on Skittles Runway 23 left. This transmission is brought to you in association with the great taste of Diet Pepsi.'

Joking aside, I can tell you this; if I was a pilot in the US who flew GA, I'd be fighting that one tooth and nail, because I can guarantee you it will be the thin end of the wedge for GA and its related industries in the US. You'll end up like Europe, where you have to pay a fortune to land, take off, park, use air traffic control etc, etc. Not only that, it will impact safety too. You put the airlines in a position where they can dictate ATC practices and I can guarantee you they'll go for cheaper choices rather than safer ones.

If you don't believe me about what such fees will do to GA, come to Europe, go to any airport other than a small airfield and see how long you have to wait before you observe a small prop GA aeroplane landing or taking off; best not hold your breath whilst you wait, if you do, you will die, because you won't see any GA aeroplanes land or take off at all from that larger airport, GA aeroplanes just don't go there, at all, ever, because the cost (which was already pricey compared to the US). Flying a GA aircraft in Europe is preposterously expensive and that's what all those fees have done to GA in Europe, basically damn near killed it off.

And if you think those fees might be negligible or possibly affordable, they won't: If you are in the US, you might be surprised to learn that it is actually considerably cheaper to get on an airliner and fly from Europe to the US, book an hotel for three weeks, do your PPL in the US, fly back to Europe and then do a JAR conversion of the PPL back in Europe than it is to do that PPL in Europe, so much so that some US flight schools advertise residential PPL courses in aviation magazines in Europe. Not only that, the European PPL syllabus is a joke nowadays anyway, so that's another reason people do that.

Now I know what you US pilots are thinking: 'but I only fly VFR' so I wouldn't get charged, well it is currently true in the US many VFR flights don't get charged fees, but they do in Europe, always, and if they privatise GA in the US, you will be saying hello to those charges too, and once one charge comes in, then there will be another, and another... So you can add another 100 quid to that VFR flight's cost just to get up off a runway and back down onto one, oh, and then you'll get charged even more to park up too once you have landed. Want to refuel as well you say? Well that's going to be three times the cost it currently would be in the US too.

Hopefully, some of that JAR rubbish might change at least for the UK as a result of leaving the EU, but I'm not holding my breath on that one.

Seriously, if you are even remotely interested in GA in the US, get writing to your representative and express your disapproval of privatising ATC in the US at once, or you really will end up only ever flying on simulators, because it will cost you an arm and a leg to do it for real. Not only that, it will spell the end for all the GA manufacturers and their support industries in the US, so it will impact domestic jobs too, even more so when they start farming out the ATC's operation to some lowest bid company from India.

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It is a foolish idea that has been kicked around since Reagan's time in office. It would result in a very expensive system that would increase ticket prices dramatically,  reduce air travel and probably drive several airlines right out of business as a result. Since the system is supposed to be "self-supporting", fees to cover all costs - operations, overhead, research and development, and employee benefits, will be covered only by users and not by the tax base as a whole. In a system the size of the US system, I suspect that would be unsupportable since those costs are very high. You cannot compare the European, Canadian, or Kiwi systems to the US system - size does count. The FAA is not the roadblock to innovation - the Congress, which has annually refused to provide sufficient funding, is the roadblock. Our politicians have an uncanny ability to understand only what they want and a deep ignorance of the implications of their desires.

 

DJ

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2 hours ago, Chock said:

Mmmm, privatised commercial ATC... 'November one two three x-ray, you are cleared to land the on Skittles Runway 23 left. This transmission is brought to you in association with the great taste of Diet Pepsi.'

Joking aside, I can tell you this; if I was a pilot in the US who flew GA, I'd be fighting that one tooth and nail, because I can guarantee you it will be the thin end of the wedge for GA and its related industries in the US. You'll end up like Europe, where you have to pay a fortune to land, take off, park, use air traffic control etc, etc. Not only that, it will impact safety too. You put the airlines in a position where they can dictate ATC practices and I can guarantee you they'll go for cheaper choices rather than safer ones.

If you don't believe me about what such fees will do to GA, come to Europe, go to any airport other than a small airfield and see how long you have to wait before you observe a small prop GA aeroplane landing or taking off; best not hold your breath whilst you wait, if you do, you will die, because you won't see any GA aeroplanes land or take off at all from that larger airport, GA aeroplanes just don't go there, at all, ever, because the cost (which was already pricey compared to the US). Flying a GA aircraft in Europe is preposterously expensive and that's what all those fees have done to GA in Europe, basically damn near killed it off.

And if you think those fees might be negligible or possibly affordable, they won't: If you are in the US, you might be surprised to learn that it is actually considerably cheaper to get on an airliner and fly from Europe to the US, book an hotel for three weeks, do your PPL in the US, fly back to Europe and then do a JAR conversion of the PPL back in Europe than it is to do that PPL in Europe, so much so that some US flight schools advertise residential PPL courses in aviation magazines in Europe. Not only that, the European PPL syllabus is a joke nowadays anyway, so that's another reason people do that.

Now I know what you US pilots are thinking: 'but I only fly VFR' so I wouldn't get charged, well it is currently true in the US many VFR flights don't get charged fees, but they do in Europe, always, and if they privatise GA in the US, you will be saying hello to those charges too, and once one charge comes in, then there will be another, and another... So you can add another 100 quid to that VFR flight's cost just to get up off a runway and back down onto one, oh, and then you'll get charged even more to park up too once you have landed. Want to refuel as well you say? Well that's going to be three times the cost it currently would be in the US too.

Hopefully, some of that JAR rubbish might change at least for the UK as a result of leaving the EU, but I'm not holding my breath on that one.

Seriously, if you are even remotely interested in GA in the US, get writing to your representative and express your disapproval of privatising ATC in the US at once, or you really will end up only ever flying on simulators, because it will cost you an arm and a leg to do it for real. Not only that, it will spell the end for all the GA manufacturers and their support industries in the US, so it will impact domestic jobs too, even more so when they start farming out the ATC's operation to some lowest bid company from India.

4

Chock is correct. AOPA is very much opposed to privatization and is fighting it tooth and nail.

DJ

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If this change to privatization happens, it  probably will be setup as a semi-autonomous corporation like the U.S. Post Office. (Don't chuckle).  It should still be under the purview  of the Federal government, who can exercise control over airport fees, and emergency situations (i.e. 9/11 groundings).  More importantly, ensure the hiring of qualified AT controllers. 

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7 minutes ago, overspeed3 said:

If this change to privatization happens, it  probably will be setup as a semi-autonomous corporation like the U.S. Post Office. (Don't chuckle).  It should still be under the purview  of the Federal government, who can exercise control over airport fees, and emergency situations (i.e. 9/11 groundings).  More importantly, ensure the hiring of qualified AT controllers. 

That isn't the current proposal. As proposed by Trump, it would be completely autonomous and self-funded. Airports are not "owned" by the Federal Government and can and will set whatever fees are felt appropriate.

DJ

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4 hours ago, Chock said:

Mmmm, privatised commercial ATC... 'November one two three x-ray, you are cleared to land the on Skittles Runway 23 left. This transmission is brought to you in association with the great taste of Diet Pepsi.'

Joking aside, I can tell you this; if I was a pilot in the US who flew GA, I'd be fighting that one tooth and nail, because I can guarantee you it will be the thin end of the wedge for GA and its related industries in the US. You'll end up like Europe, where you have to pay a fortune to land, take off, park, use air traffic control etc, etc. Not only that, it will impact safety too. You put the airlines in a position where they can dictate ATC practices and I can guarantee you they'll go for cheaper choices rather than safer ones.

If you don't believe me about what such fees will do to GA, come to Europe, go to any airport other than a small airfield and see how long you have to wait before you observe a small prop GA aeroplane landing or taking off; best not hold your breath whilst you wait, if you do, you will die, because you won't see any GA aeroplanes land or take off at all from that larger airport, GA aeroplanes just don't go there, at all, ever, because the cost (which was already pricey compared to the US). Flying a GA aircraft in Europe is preposterously expensive and that's what all those fees have done to GA in Europe, basically damn near killed it off.

And if you think those fees might be negligible or possibly affordable, they won't: If you are in the US, you might be surprised to learn that it is actually considerably cheaper to get on an airliner and fly from Europe to the US, book an hotel for three weeks, do your PPL in the US, fly back to Europe and then do a JAR conversion of the PPL back in Europe than it is to do that PPL in Europe, so much so that some US flight schools advertise residential PPL courses in aviation magazines in Europe. Not only that, the European PPL syllabus is a joke nowadays anyway, so that's another reason people do that.

Now I know what you US pilots are thinking: 'but I only fly VFR' so I wouldn't get charged, well it is currently true in the US many VFR flights don't get charged fees, but they do in Europe, always, and if they privatise GA in the US, you will be saying hello to those charges too, and once one charge comes in, then there will be another, and another... So you can add another 100 quid to that VFR flight's cost just to get up off a runway and back down onto one, oh, and then you'll get charged even more to park up too once you have landed. Want to refuel as well you say? Well that's going to be three times the cost it currently would be in the US too.

Hopefully, some of that JAR rubbish might change at least for the UK as a result of leaving the EU, but I'm not holding my breath on that one.

Seriously, if you are even remotely interested in GA in the US, get writing to your representative and express your disapproval of privatising ATC in the US at once, or you really will end up only ever flying on simulators, because it will cost you an arm and a leg to do it for real. Not only that, it will spell the end for all the GA manufacturers and their support industries in the US, so it will impact domestic jobs too, even more so when they start farming out the ATC's operation to some lowest bid company from

 

Cut it out with the money over safety idea from airlines. You are talking out of thin air. Give credit where credit is due.

 

Alaska airlines pioneered RNP approaches for their operation. Did that effect safety?

There are many airline specific approaches in the usa. Do those effect safety?

 

Both of these examples are super simple ones but prove tht airlines already dictate the NAS to a certsin extent and safety has never been compromised because of it.

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6 minutes ago, ahsmatt7 said:

 

Cut it out with the money over safety idea from airlines. You are talking out of thin air. Give credit where credit is due.

I will always give credit where it is due, but that doesn't mean I will avoid talking about things where credit is not due. Even if one is not involved with this subject on a professional level (which I am incidentally), one would have to be very ill-informed about aviation to have never heard of any incidents where the desire to save money has led to safety issues with airlines. A quick search on Google will certainly confirm that. I'll give you one quote on the matter to get you started, and this is from a Civil Aviation Authority report from earlier this year on this very subject: 'Paring pilot training to the minimum because of cost pressures is not an adequate approach'

You might be interested to know that I am personally involved in the aircraft accident investigation process for amongst others, the airline pilot's association, so if you think I'm 'talking out of thin air' on this matter, you could not be more wrong, because I am pasionately concerned about the matter.

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To be honest - I would have my concerns regarding this move... 

Pushed to the extreme; if a decision comes down to choosing between the safest option and the cheapest option, what do you think a cooperation will choose? Some instances of government is best to be kept that way, IMO...

Image if the NTSB would be privatized? Now THAT would be hilarious...  

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6 minutes ago, Chock said:

I will always give credit where it is due, but that doesn't mean I will avoid talking about things where credit is not due. Even if one is not involved with this subject on a professional level (which I am incidentally), one would have to be very ill-informed about aviation to have never heard of any incidents where the desire to save money has led to safety issues with airlines. A quick search on Google will certainly confirm that. I'll give you one quote on the matter to get you started, and this is from a Civil Aviation Authority report from earlier this year on this very subject: 'Paring pilot training to the minimum because of cost pressures is not an adequate approach'

You might be interested to know that I am personally involved in the aircraft accident investigation process for amongst others, the airline pilot's association, so if you think I'm 'talking out of thin air' on this matter, you could not be more wrong, because I am pasionately concerned about the matter.

You are now talking about saving money in general causing problems which i do agree with you. However, that doesnt really trsnslate into the atc system.

All im saying is that i think your generalization of safety cultures at airlines is just that...a generalization. As i have stated in the last post, airlines have been dictating the atc system as much as they possibly can and it hasnt resulted in casulties.

GOing back to saving money by cutting corners on certain thingswithin an airline, yes ite caused problems and its sad how many lives have been lost.

Im sure you have a great resume. It would be good to not make generalizations though.

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Topic is too politically sensitive to moderate as the left does not like the fact the government is no longer in control of something and the right wants less and less government control. 

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