Government-run Air Control Dangerous

The deregulated, private, competitive U.S. airlines are the envy of the world when it comes to safety, state-of-the-art technology and affordability. But the government-run U.S. air traffic control system is in a shambles, relying on quarter-century old computer equipment and suffering major personnel problems.

Air traffic control computers are long overdue for replacement, some being more than twenty-five years old. Some are so old that replacement parts are unavailable. Despite this, the Federal Aviation Administration is cutting back on its maintenance budget, eliminating training and cutting back on hiring.

In some centers, half the technicians are eligible to retire. Because of planned reductions in benefits, many will retire in the next year or two.

Air traffic control centers have experienced major trouble relating to their computer and personnel problems. Although the problems have not yet caused a crash, they have caused delays costing millions of dollars. The FAA counted eleven failures between September 1994 and August 1995.

On-board collision-avoidance systems were the only savior of two American Airlines passenger planes led by faulty controller information towards a head-on collision.

Other problems have included "ghost targets" (planes that exist only on air traffic control screens), real planes that don't show up on screen and frequent flickers.

Government is simply not an efficient producer of consumer products, whether food, health care or air traffic control. U.S. air traffic control will be the envy of the world when it is run by U.S. businesses and not the U.S. government.

Source: Aug. 20, 1995, New York Times article.