America’s outdated aviation system deserves better than radar blips

May 10, 2017 | Rep. Bill Shuster

The Hill

America’s infrastructure is the foundation of our economy, and to remain globally competitive, we must modernize this system using 21st century technology. A clear example is our aviation system.

While our aviation system remains safe, delays cost consumers and the economy over $30 billion every year. With annual passenger levels approaching 1 billion and nearly three-fourths of our top 30 airports expected to soon experience Thanksgiving-level traffic once per week, this cost will grow unless we do something. 

Our current air traffic control technology is a dinosaur compared to other countries’ systems. American air traffic controllers use WWII-era radar technology as the backbone of our system to manage the most congested airspace in the world. While other nations deploy 21st century technology to move planes with tremendous efficiency, our system is stuck in the sluggish bureaucracy of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the cumbersome federal budget and procurement processes. 

In today’s digital age, our controllers still track planes with radar blips and paper strips. We literally ask these professionals to use little pieces of paper to move more than 700 million passengers a year. Our controllers are the best in the world, so why shouldn’t we give them the best technology in the world to do their jobs?

Transformational reform of the FAA’s structure and programs is the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s highest priority and one of the most important reform efforts Congress can pass this session.

Our proposal will shift air traffic control out of the government and establish a fully independent, not-for-profit corporation — essentially a co-op — to operate and modernize this technology service. The committee’s FAA reform proposal will give the average American flier a safe and more efficient aviation system, getting government out of the way to use 21st century technology and ensure more on-time departures, more direct routes and less wasted time on the tarmac.

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