A Continental Airlines plane is parked next to United Airlines planes in Chicago
Photograph by John Gress — Reuters

Why air travel could soon be radically different

May 12, 2015

Air traffic control in the United States could be on the doorstep of a serious transformation, one that's getting support from both airlines and labor unions.

What's the new plan? Essentially, responsibility for air traffic control could be shifted from the Federal Aviation Authority to a non-profit entity, reports The Wall Street Journal. Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Bill Shuster, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, is currently working on drafting legislation that would do just that. Democrats on the committee also want a change, but currently favor creating an independent government body.

The problems with the current system aren't related to safety, but to efficiency and cost. The belief is that a new system would cost less and result in fewer cancelled flights.

From the Journal:

The proponents of change include most of the larger U.S. airlines, pilot groups, representatives of private aviators, and the controllers union, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, though not all of those groups are persuaded that privatization is the best approach.

The most aggressive say that a new structure could assure more reliable funding, via fees that airspace users would pay, than the current mix of congressional appropriations and a hodgepodge of taxes. That could help advance the FAA’s troubled NextGen air-traffic modernization drive, a $40 billion program widely criticized by government watchdogs and air-space users for delays and for being over budget and ineffective.

Details of the proposal aren't available yet.

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