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Coalition for Modern Skies: Senate Has Historic Opportunity to Make Air Travel Better for 2M Daily Travelers

The Coalition for Modern Skies issued the following statement urging members of the Senate to take action to modernize air traffic control (ATC) through the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization legislation:

“The U.S. Senate has a historic opportunity to make air travel better for the more than 2 million people who fly through our skies every day through comprehensive reforms to our nation’s air traffic control system. Our ATC system is faced with antiquated technology and staffing shortfalls, which put the system under increasing stress. We urge the Senate to take action now and keep our ATC system on track by making the operations function independent of politics and establishing a guaranteed, reliable funding model funded by the system’s users.

 “Currently, controllers route flights using antiquated ground-based radar that is less technically advanced than the smart phones in our pockets. Congressional budget impasses have repeatedly stalled the implementation of GPS technology. Our controllers do heroic work, but they’re stretched too thin. A third are up for retirement, and the training and recruitment pipeline is not moving fast enough to fill the need. In the meantime, the number of passengers has climbed for the past six years.

 “Controllers, pilots, and a bi-partisan group of former FAA officials are behind the move to make ATC operations independent from politics, and let the FAA do what it does best: regulate safety.

 “That’s why experts in air traffic control agree on the need for Congress to act now to usher in transformational reforms before we reach a critical point. Anything short of bold reform is not good enough.

 “We are one of the few developed nations that has not yet modernized its air navigation operations, and we are losing our innovative edge. We can use the lessons-learned from the 60 nations that have already modernized their air navigation and ensure a smooth transition. The Coalition for Modern Skies strongly urges Senators to include these vital reforms in the FAA Reauthorization bill so that the United States can reclaim leadership in the skies.”

The benefits of ATC reform:

  • Enhanced Safety: Safety is priority number one. Implementation of available, state-of-the art technology will provide an additional, never-before-realized margin of safety.
  • Modern Technology: ATC currently uses antiquated, ground-based radar technology. These outdated technologies result in unnecessarily long flight times and indirect routes, which adds time and cost and also uses more fuel.
  • Reliable Funding: The FAA has been hampered by budget constraints that have resulted in sequester and furloughs of air traffic controllers. Not knowing the budget from one year to the next prevents FAA executives from delivering a meaningful capital improvement plan, implementing NextGen and from meeting the need to hire additional air traffic controllers.

Accountable Governance: A self-sustaining ATC system, with budget and management independence from the federal government, significantly decreases the potential for political games, arbitrary budget decisions, furloughs and shutdowns. Independent ATC board members would be prohibited from having any financial employment ties to stakeholders.