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GAO report: ATC system performing wellGAO report: ATC system performing well

A newly released report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) backs up what AOPA and other general aviation groups have been saying for months: Air traffic control technology upgrades are on budget and already increasing efficiency despite claims by the airlines.

Photo by Christopher Rose

According to a report in Bloomberg, “The GAO’s findings are closer to those of the private-plane lobby, which has argued that the existing system has performed well and that there’s no need to create a private air-traffic organization.”

As the GAO report uncovers, NextGen technology is performing well and has even increased flight efficiency and saved airlines millions of dollars in fuel costs. In Atlanta, a separate FAA program bringing airplanes closer together allowed Delta Airlines to increase daily operations by 6.8 percent. By 2025, the FAA’s basic goals for NextGen are set to be completed and still within cost estimates from a decade ago.

Despite the undeniable progress in NetGen, there are some who want to overhaul the system entirely. Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) wants to codify in H.R. 2997, a bill that would remove ATC from the FAA and turn it over to the airlines. The 21st Century AIRR Act passed Shuster's Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in July. With Congress back from summer recess, pressure to vote on the legislation looms in the House.

Even with the GAO findings, supporters of H.R. 2997 are not willing to ease up on criticism of the system. Citizens For On Time Flights, an organization facilitated by the airline advocacy association Airlines for Americas, has released a barrage of attacks on the current system calling it “outdated” and the “cause of flight delays.” The attack ads online and on social networks come despite the fact that the airlines themselves are responsible for 50 percent of delays. As far as the outdated argument goes, many airlines have yet to upgrade their own fleets with newer technology necessary to reap the benefits of modernization that have already taken place.

The report is the second major criticism supporters of the legislation encountered recently with the announcement by the American Conservative Union Foundation that the legislation is not really privatization and should be withdrawn.

AOPA Communications staff

Topics: Advocacy, ATC

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