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Predictions from many experts state that the United States aviation infrastructure will experience major problems over the coming years. The high number of passengers has led to reduction of the average size of planes as well as increase of their number in the skies, making it hard for the flight aviation administration to resolve problems with the ATC systems and capital funding inability to efficiently implement new forms of technology as well as high labor costs. Major changes have been proposed including privatization of the air traffic control system, as failure in this system results to the airplane disasters.
ATC Air Traffic Control is a service provided to prevent aircraft collision on the ground or in flight. This service is offered by the ground based controllers who ensure the organization of the air traffic flow through giving information and any other kind of support to pilots when required to. The service can also play a security and defense role when provided by the military. Over years there has been much debate on who should control the ATC. Some parties believe that the service should be left under the government watch while others think it should be privatized. Based on the national security issue the government thinks it should continue controlling the service. The question here is will the privatization of the ATC impact positively towards the prevention of air attacks and national sky security.
Implementation of new technologies by privatized ATCs has led to technological failures across Europe. Many countries, particularly Britain and Australia, have reported on safety hazards and insufficient air security and safety as a result of new technologies being implemented by the privatized air control systems. The next question to bear in mind is should the air traffic control be privatized? Companies that will manage the privatized air traffic control are basically privately owned and acquire the bid to control the system by offering the lowest bid contract to the government. The idea that there are other alternative air traffic control service contractors is a motivation factor to the contractors to perform to the air traffic agencies expectation.
The private corporations can not ensure reliable backgrounds, therefore, the flight aviation administration (FAA) must retain a strong supervisory role to maintain the safety and security of the public; the private contractors are not willing to deliver the air traffic control system at low costs as they are usually after profit. Following the recent arguments on privatization of the ATC a new era has emerged providing training opportunities to those interested in the air traffic control. Recently, a number of the companies partnering with the governments in providing air traffic control training have emerged. These companies claim to have vast experience in air traffic control. Companies such as the Global Aerospace Logistics have stepped up to the occasion. The training facilities are located close to the air ports so as to offer close interaction between students and pilots. Training can take up to three years and upon completion the candidates are placed in available positions. The candidates then get assessed through practical exercises and exams or oral test. Once qualified, the air traffic controllers are expected to keep their skills up to date through training or enrolling for online courses.
Privatizing the ATC system comes with certain economic advantages, such as cost saving and more efficient air travel. For example, in Canada a private ATC saved Canadian passengers and airlines large sums of money. The privatized systems speed up modernization of ATC, thus, stabilizing the funding and collection of user fees leading to provision of bondable revenue flow. Customer services, like the ATC, are able to avoid government procurement regulations that are ill suited. In the future more flexibility to plan and investment of the federal budgeting process will be provided through constant stream of revenue. Those in support of the idea of privatizing the ATC, claim that the contractors will run as non profit organizations that will operate free of the government funding, thus, running independently they will be able to upgrade their systems as opposed to the ATC control systems run by the government. For example, NAV Canada has been able to upgrade their system through the use of commercial financing as well as to keep the costs low by ensuring controllers provide flexible schedules. Financing the private corporations is not a big hurdle as the government has introduced tax reforms that allow reduction or elimination of taxes on a municipal based interest, which allows private airport controllers to utilize the revenue exempt bond. Labor cost is reduced eliminating the need for hiring more workers.
The benefits associated with privatization of these air traffic control systems include the increase in proficiency in managing the airports. The new business enterprise management approach offers expansion of capabilities to reduce congestion and provide more efficient services, which in its turn allows privately owned plane airlines and the tax payers to benefit. However, these flexibilities are costly, as the aircraft incident rates shoot up leading to in efficiency as a result of strikes that rise due to the cost saving work rules. NAV Canada has suffered from huge financial loses and inadequate staffing. These loses make the private corporation hike the airline fees for the passengers to cover up the debt.
Information sharing between the private sector and the government is playing a vital role in the defense against external attacks and averting airline disasters. Substantial barriers are making it hard for the partnership and flow of information sharing between the government and the private sector. The private sector particularly feels that releasing certain information to the government would spark the government antitrust actions. Trust is important in communication between the government and the private ATC controllers. Air traffic management information data is relayed and exchanged through the aeronautical information exchange model which enables encoding and distribution of information in a digital format. Should an emergency arise the private enterprise should be able to rise to the occasion and inform the affected government agency so that a quick response can be made.
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The government has offered a bill that would allow private cooperates to run air traffic control towers at smaller airstrips, although, the air controllers will not work under the government. Those in support argue that compromise offered will allow the improvement of the air traffic control systems. The private sector will upgrade tools and equipment, ensure better technology is efficiently used in confronting the air traffic system problems. Selling and leasing of infrastructure has over time poised as a challenge in the privatization of the air traffic control. For the existing airports the government has contracted management of the airports to private sectors on a short term base. On the other hand, long term based leases involve the corporation buying off facilities, such as radar sites. The private firm is granted long term franchise to finance design and operate its own facility. Airports selling or leasing has been objected by the federal administrators on the ground of the airports fearing competition.
The United States congress passed a reform on the airport privatization pilot program that allowed granting exemptions to five airports in America. The reform states that cities that allow pilot programs should not pay previous grants and are also have the right to maintain any airport lease or sale. However, the reform was hard to maintain as some airlines found it hard to keep a provision specifying the lease or sale procedures. They had no option, but to get approval from the airlines serving as airports. This has slowed down the progress towards privatization. Leasing of technology has created a challenge to the FAA in its attempt to modernize, expand and increase the systems productivity over the years. The advanced automation technology and other major projects have had large cost over runs leading to failures and lack of schedule keeping. It has been concluded through a review by IOG research group that FAA attempted to modernize but could neither improve productivity, nor cut the costs.
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In conclusion, Americans would not feel safe knowing that the company that presented the lowest bid was awarded the responsibility of managing their air traffic control systems. The American air traffic control system is assumed to be the best in the world, thus, it becomes difficult to understand why the lowest bidder id responsible for the safety of people. People should learn from privatization of other sectors, such as food processing industries, prisons and juvenile correction facilities,that have registered harmful results that have led to deaths. Air traffic control privatization compromises customers’ safety. The United States should adopt changes, used in other parts of the world to privatize and commercialize air traffic control services as the private owned ATC companies stand a better chance of responding to changing market needs due to their flexibility in working with advanced technology implementation.