During the Presidential campaign Donald Trump promised to strip the Federal Aviation Administration of some of their power by finally privatizing Air Traffic Control. On Tuesday, a bill doing just that passed a major legislative hurdle.
The bill was introduced by Bill Shuster (R,PA), and passed committee by a vote of 32-25, with every Democrat voting against the bill.
The legislation would create a privately held non-profit corporation held by a 13 member board of directors. The NPO would then be funded by a service fee that would presumably be paid for by airlines, and passed along to ticket holders. Which could, have some effect on ticket prices, but better that the fee is paid for by those traveling than by taxing everyone.
There was, however, a lone Republican dissenter. Todd Rokita (R, IN) broke party lines in committee, voting against the measure saying;
“It’s the corporatization of a monopoly where one part of the ecosystem can take over the rest”
In Milton Friedman’s masterpiece on the role of capitalism in freedom, “Capitalism and Freedom: Fortieth Anniversary Edition” he states that if monopolies exist, he would rather they exist in the public sphere because the public sphere reacts swiftly to change.
Take Canada, for example; Canada privatized Air Traffic Control through a privately held NPO in 1996. Since then, as Investors.com has noted;
“As part of its never-ending, multibillion dollar”NextGen” upgrade project, the FAA plans to replace the paper strips that flight controllers still use to track flights. The current plan is to have electronic flight strips in just 89 of the nation’s busiest airport control towers — 11 years from now.”
During that same period of time, the budget of the FAA has increased 95% while Air Traffic Control costs have increased 71%.
The inefficiency has even been noticed by the government. Inspector General Calvin Scovel admitted in front of the House Transportation Committee that the FAA suffered from;
“long-standing management problems have led to further delays with FAA’s efforts to deliver new technologies and major acquisitions.”
Chris Edwards, from the Cato Institute, notes that our ATC system is so technologically behind that we are still using radar detection. Most of the civilized world transitioned to GPS years ago.
Privatizing Air Traffic Control is a great first step. It’s not inconceivable to believe that privatizing the ATC will lead to better technology, and more efficient flight paths. And at the end of the day, if our flights are shorter, isn’t that a win for everyone?