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Privatizing U.S. Air Traffic Control?

Wed Aug 27, 2003 6:19 am

I live in central PA in USA and they started running ads that told us to call our congressmen and tell them not to privateize Air Traffic Control. So what are the pros and cons of this if it is approved????
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RE: Privatizing U.S. Air Traffic Control?

Wed Aug 27, 2003 6:23 am

My mom told me about one of these commercials, but I haven't seen it yet. There's phone number on them and everything. I think it's a bad idea to privatize the ATC system. Safety truly has to be the first priority here, period. You can't start cutting corners to save money. I think it's one industry that must be done by the government. Private companies have to make a profit and the government doesn't.

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RE: Privatizing U.S. Air Traffic Control?

Wed Aug 27, 2003 6:31 am

Even if they do privatize it, won't government regulations and restrictions be so prevalent that it will just be the same as if they controlled it?

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RE: Privatizing U.S. Air Traffic Control?

Wed Aug 27, 2003 6:38 am

Your neighbours in Canada privatised their air traffic control years ago...don't hear much of an outcry north of the border.
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RE: Privatizing U.S. Air Traffic Control?

Wed Aug 27, 2003 6:46 am

Air traffic control technology in America is extremely outdated. For example, Chicago O'Hare Air traffic control tower still uses tubes. Clearly, the U.S. government cannot keep technology in the air traffic control system safe. Maybe a private company can.
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RE: Privatizing U.S. Air Traffic Control?

Wed Aug 27, 2003 7:05 am

According to these commercials, privatising ATC has "failed" in Canada, Europe and Australia. How accurate is this claim? If it had failed I'd imagine we'd see mishaps every it really any worse off than our current system here in the States?

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RE: Privatizing U.S. Air Traffic Control?

Wed Aug 27, 2003 7:21 am

It has not "failed" in Canada. It has done really well from what I know. They have some of the best technology in the field of Air Traffic Controlling. Where as in most of the U.S. we have very outdated systems that were built in the 70's and maybe even before that. If the government is not going to put money into ATC then I would be for privatizing ATC.

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RE: Privatizing U.S. Air Traffic Control?

Wed Aug 27, 2003 7:26 am

Privatizing U.S. ATC would be a disaster. Although it has been "okay" in Canada, I don't think that it would work in the U.S. Since the current technology is outdated, what needs to happen is the Federal Government needs to drastically improve the existing ATC system, if that doesn't happen soon then privatizing might work. I know that currently NATCA (National Air Traffic Controllers Association) is battling the issue with the gov. I hope they are successful.

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RE: Privatizing U.S. Air Traffic Control?

Wed Aug 27, 2003 7:28 am

If privatized, air traffic controllers in the US will face wage cuts and furloughs. The contract would go to the lowest bidder and would result in less of a budget for the controllers. This means an even slower update of equipment and a loss of many skilled people. Keep ATC federal!
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RE: Privatizing U.S. Air Traffic Control?

Wed Aug 27, 2003 7:31 am

It definitely has not failed here in Canada. In fact, private companies are usually much more responsive than government bureaucracies. I'm surprised some of you don't want to try private ATC, since health care is arguably more important, and that's private in the United States.

You have to look at the most efficient way of providing the service while adhering to strict safety standards. Only then can you decide which way is better.
"it's kind of like an Airbus, it's an engineering marvel, but there's no sense of passion" -- J. Clarkson re: Coxster
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RE: Privatized U.S. Air Traffic Control?

Wed Aug 27, 2003 7:36 am

Goboeing--is right on!

Im an FAA air traffic controller (with a contract tower in my airspace) in central Texas and was thinking about starting this topic.

When you have a private company operating a contract tower the motivating factor is money and profit. Its not training. Controllers don't become controllers over night. It may take anywhere from 2 to 5 years to become a fully certified controller, depending on what type of facility you are working. Do you think a contract company wants to devote that much time to make sure some knows how to do the job.

Facility maintenance can be lacking. The contract tower I work with on a daily basis has had a frequency down for maintenance for over 4 years. It just became operational a few months ago. When we found out it was back we all laughed. A lot of us didn't even know it existed.

Staffing--Most (if not all) contract towers are operated with minimal staffing. If the controller goes down the tubs, oh well, you just have to work you way out of it and hope everything goes ok. It doesn't always go ok, though. 2 mid-airs in the Chicago area, at VFR contract towers can attest to that. Now everyone is suing everyone involved, including the FAA, for lack of oversight.

No age limit--Watch out if you fly into contract tower airspace. Your controller may be 75 years old.

It comes down to this.

When you go in for surgery do you want you surgeon to be well trained and at the top of his game? Do you expect that he is focused on you and the situation and not thinking about how much he has to go to the bathroom or how hungry he is. You trust that he has all the people around him he needs to get the job done. You hope he has all the technology (and that its operational) to do his job. You hope he has your best interests at heart and isn't thinking about how tired he is or that its been 3 hrs since his last break.

You could insert air traffic controller there now couldn't you. I know surgeons are not Federal Employees but you have a choice in surgeons. You don't have a choice in your air traffic controller. Hell, you don't even get to meet the guy know that we cant have visitors (9/11).

This is just the beginning. The Bush administration wants to contract out 69 towers in this country. Some of these are some of the busiest towers in the world. Places like Denver Centennial, Van Nuys, Pontiac and SFB.

THIS IS NOT JOKE! These are very busy places, just as busy if not busier than JFK, SFO and CLE.

What the contract tower companies really want is to win government contracts and then cut, through understaffing and other means, pocketing the rest.

You can call


The system is set up by the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.

It will ask you, your zip code and then walk you through the process of informing your Congressmen or woman/Representative of your views on the subject. It will then transfer you to the Representatives office. It only takes 3 minutes and all you need to do is let you Rep know you live in thier state, you vote and that contracting of ATC concerns you and to not support any effort to privatize or contract out the nations air traffic control system.

Contracting is NOT GOOD for our ATC system and your representative needs to know it.
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RE: Privatizing U.S. Air Traffic Control?

Wed Aug 27, 2003 8:03 am

Regarding Canada

Has the Canadian ATC system not raised fees to its users? Has the Canadian system not had its credit rating downgraded. Have working conditions at Canadian ATC operation centers deteriorated? Has NAV Canada's financial difficulties prevented it from hiring additional air traffic controllers? Has the work load on NAV Canada's controllers increased from this?

* "Nav Canada, the privatized air traffic control system that has served as a model for the United States, suffered a downgraded credit rating on Jan. 24 due to an operating deficit of $19 million last year. The downgrade may dissuade top officials in the Bush Administration from adopting a similar privatized system."

Airline Financial News, February 3, 2003
Safety & Technology

Nav Canada: A Failed Attempt At Privatization

Nav Canada was established in 1998 as a private, not-for-profit company and is responsible for managing the country's air traffic control system. The privatized system has led to significant increases in user fees for passengers and dangerous understaffing in towers.

* Nav Canada faces dire financial problems.
The private, not-for-profit company has faced a $150 million revenue shortfall and has raised user fees for passengers by 6 percent to cover its operating deficit. As a result of these increases, passengers have paid an additional $24 on every return ticket for air travel across Canada.

HHHHHHHHHHHHHHmmmm, and what if Air Canada continues to loose money. Don't they have to pay fees to Nav Canada?



* The number of aircraft "near misses" over Britain has risen to its highest for a decade, while controllers' concerns about safety have been ignored. There were more than 220 near misses during 2002, according to the UK Airprox Board. Meanwhile, staff have threatened to walk out because the private management organization refuses to invest in the long-term improvements in the system needed to increase safety and efficiency. NATS has also announced deep cuts in support staff as part of a cost-cutting program aimed at regaining financial viability.

* Even the British parliament has been dissatisfied with this private-public partnership. A report issued by the Parliament's Select Committee on Transport came to the following conclusion:

Is the British ATC system not responsible for almost 40% of European delays


Are the Australian controllers threatening to strike? Are Australian controllers finding themselves in positions where they cant help aircraft in distress due to possible litigation. Has Australia's ATC system not raised fees?


YOU GUYS----The FAA has introduced big advances in new technology and its not all the tub and transistor set you think it is.

Not only that but lets not forget we run THE MOST ADVANCED, COMPLICATED BIGGEST AND BUSIEST system in the world. HANDS DOWN!

Its is also a system that , according to its users meets or exceeds their expectations every day.

Does everyone understand that if I work at a contract tower I can be sued if something goes wrong?


Is this really the system we want?

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