In iPhone/GPS era, FAA still flying by passing out slips of paper

Here is still another example of a bureaucracy mired in incompetence.

The Wall Street Journal reports in an editorial today that the Federal Aviation Administration runs an air-traffic control system with the best technology World War II could offer, while its efforts to upgrade are overbudget and overdue. The FAA is expected to miss its 2025 completion date by a decade.

The Associated Press recently reported that new air control towers at McCarran International in Las Vegas and San Francisco International can’t open and will have to be remodeled because they are built for new technology that keeps crashing. Work spaces will have to be expanded so controllers can handle slips of paper for tracking flights.

Both the AP account and the WSJ editorial report that a bill sponsored by Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., chairman of the House Transportation Committee, would take air traffic control operations away from the FAA and hand it to a nonprofit company run by the aviation industry.

WSJ says it works in Australia, New Zealand and Canada, and a Government Accountability Office report found safety either improved or remained unchanged.

Sounds like a better alternative.

New McCarran tower in the foreground and old tower to the left. (R-J photo)


8 comments on “In iPhone/GPS era, FAA still flying by passing out slips of paper

  1. Anonymous says:

    You would be disheartened to see the technology in place and that millions (or billions) have been collected from the flying public for years to maintain and upgrade the system. A few years ago I toured the control tower at a busy regional commercial aviation airport. The “radar” consisted of a TV showing the feed from a a video camera pointed at a radar screen at the FAA control center miles away. Squinting controllers guided the private and commercial planes approaching and departing the runway. Somehow the $ was misplaced in DC. “There’s many a slip twixt the cup and the lip.”

  2. “There’s many a slip twixt the cup and the lip.” Amen. Amen.

  3. Steve says:

    Bureaucratic stagnation looking for some last ditch hook they can use to stay relevant rather than let progress happen.

  4. Rincon says:

    According to Wikipedia, the fatality rate for automobiles is about 1.5 per 100 million vehicle miles. For airlines, it’s around 3 per 10 billion passenger miles – more than 30 times less. And cars don’t fall from the sky when they stall. I won’t say the FAA can’t use some improvement, but you ignore the elephant in the room. Heavily regulated flying is far safer than lightly regulated driving. Coincidence, you say?

  5. Steve says:

    Liberals love to show conservative foreign countries do so much better when it comes to growing a government program like taking over the health insurance industry.

    Well, this time, the shoe is on the other foot.
    Private outfits running air traffic control is working in other countries and they are using off the shelf, privately built, systems too.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Semi Interesting analysis as to reasons for and against privitization.

    Delta Airlines insists that the other two majors are wrong, and that ATC should not be privatized. The pilots union (at least as of 2015) was noncommitted on the issue so long as the level of safety could be guaranteed as being the same.

  7. Steve says:

    The union has come out publicly calling for privatization.

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