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Donít privatize Air Traffic Control

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Old February 10th 18, 02:24 PM posted to rec.aviation.piloting
Larry Dighera
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Posts: 3,877
Default Donít privatize Air Traffic Control


Guest column: Donít privatize Air Traffic Control

Published Feb. 8, 2018 at 09:30PM
(Andy Tullis/Bulletin photo)

Itís hard to fathom the Washington, D.C., interest in privately
contracting the nationís air traffic control system, operated publicly
by the Federal Aviation Administration. Any pilot who flies
internationally understands that the system is the envy of the world.
It works incredibly well as it is; please donít fix it.

A rigorous air traffic control system provides us with very safe
airspace in the United States. Pilots have confidence in the system,
and they understand full well that lapses in judgment or procedure
will be dealt with directly and effectively by controllers.

I know; I got in a spot of trouble with them as a young pilot, and
within a day, I was ordered to seek additional training about my
responsibilities as a pilot in a busy, urban airspace. FAA-ATC
professionals are very effective ďair police.Ē Itís hard to imagine
how a private contractor could fill that function. Rent-a-Cop,
contracted enforcement rarely works; as a pilot, I donít want a
rent-a-cop writing me traffic tickets.

The FAA-ATC is closely aligned with our Defense Department, providing
eyes and ears over every square mile of domestic airspace, a vital
element of domestic national security. Under a private contractor,
that relationship would necessarily be diminished. Here again, why
would we risk losing this effective, proven national security

Last year, I flew my plane around the world. I went through Canada
(not bad air traffic control, but not as good as ours), Greenland, The
United Kingdom, Western Europe, Russia and home. The systems outside
of the United States are cumbersome, clunky and expensive to use ó and
they are largely run by private contractors. They donít provide the
direct style routing that we have become accustomed to in the United
States. They are regimented, inflexible and inefficient.

Recently, the FAA made a comparative study of American vs. European
air traffic systems
.. Itís a dense document, but the upshot is that the complexity of air
traffic organizations results in a significantly less efficient
delivery of air traffic services ó and to commercial travelers, that
means delays and traffic hassles.

Theyíve tried contracting air traffic control in the U.K. and Canada,
and both countries had to go back and bail out the contractors through
massive fee increases on travelers and from taxpayers. And a U.S.
Government Accountability Office report raised issues and doubts about
such a massive, complex transition, probably the most important of
which is how the highly skilled ATC staff would be split between the
public agency and the new private organization.

There is nothing to envy about the European air traffic system. The
United States has fewer air traffic controllers managing many more
types of aircraft, from commercial to private to military. A fourth of
their traffic delays are caused by traffic volume, as compared with 3
percent here. Our system handles more traffic, with far less delays,
for less money.

This is a horrible idea. It would provide perceived benefits to one
industry ó the commercial airlines (I think it will hurt them, too!) ó
to the complete detriment of general aviation (everyone else).

Itís a solution in search of a problem. The American air traffic
control system works incredibly well; it isnít broken; do us all a
favor, please donít fix it.


Produced by:
EUROCONTROL on behalf of the European Union
FAA Air Traffic Organization System Operations Services
Comparison of Air Traffic Management-Related
Operational Performance: U.S./Europe
August 2016

This report is the 5th in a series of joint ATM operational
performance comparisons between the US and Europe. It represents the
2nd edition under the Memorandum of Cooperationbetween the United
States and the European Union. Building on established operational
key performance indicators, the goal of the joint study conducted
by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and EUROCONTROL on behalf
of the European Union is to understand differences between the
two ATM systems in order to further optimise ATM performance
and to identify best practices for the benefit of the overall
air transport system. The analysis is based on a comparable
set of data and harmonised assessment techniques for developing
reference conditions for assessing ATM performance.

Although the US CONUS airspace is 10% smaller than the European
airspace, the US controlled
approximately 57% more flights operating under Instrument Flight
Rules (IFR) with 24%
full time Air Traffic Controllers (ATCOs) than in Europe in
2015. US airspace density is, on
average, higher and airports tend to be notably larger than in Europe.
In terms of traffic evolution, t
here was a notable decoupling
between the US and Europe
in 2
when the traffic in Europe continued to grow while US traffic started
to decline. The effect of the
economic crisis starting in 2008 impacted traffic growth on
both sides of the Atlantic
traffic in Europe decreased by 3.3%, air t
raffic in the US
by 9.9%
reaching a low of traffic in 2013. For 2013
2015, the US CONUS experienced traffic growth
of 1.6%
weekly traffic profiles in Europe and the US are similar
(lowest level of traffic during
weekends), the seas
onal variation is higher in Europe. European traffic shows a clear
peak during
the summer months. Compared to average, traffic in Europe is
in summer about 15% higher
whereas in the US the seasonal variation is more moderate.
At system level, the US has a
notably higher share of general aviation than Europe which
accounted for 22% and 3.7% of total traffic in 2015,
respectively. In order to improve comparability of datasets,
the more detailed analyses
limited to controlled flights either
originating f
rom or arriving at
the main 34 US and European airports. The samples are more
comparable as this removes a large share of the smaller piston
and turboprop aircraft (general
aviation traffic), particularly in the US.
Air t
raffic to or from the mai
n 34 airpo
in Europe and in
the US
in 2015 represented
some 64% of all flights.
There are
a number of
differences between the two systems. In the US, the Air
Traffic Control
System Command Center
which is the equivalent of Network Manager
Operations Centre
Europe, is in a stronger position
than its European counterpart
with more active involvement of
tactically managing traffic on the day of operations.
The US also operates with fewer airports applying schedule
limitations which may lead to a
better util
ization of available airport capacity in id
eal weather conditions
The analysis of
meteorological reports suggests that weather conditions at the
main 34 airports in Europe are
on average,
than in the US.
In 2015, 84.5% of the year was spe
nt in
meteorological conditions
at the main 34 US airports
compared to 77.8% in Europe.
shows more airports operating closer to their
capacity with more IFR flights per active
runway. The US operates many airports with complex runwa
with highly variable capacity
several are operat
at close to peak capacity.
or airports with more than 3 runways, US
declared rates are in
than Europe.
For Europe,
London Heathrow, Frankfurt, and
Paris Charles de Gaulle
have demand/capacity characteristics
to the slot
coordinated airports in the US
Each system has area
s that are highly impacted by S
Use A
due to
operations of a military nature. For Europe,
permeates all regions and adds complexity in
some of the most densely traveled areas of Europe. For the
US, those areas are more
concentrated, particularly in coastal regions. The impact of
on flight efficiency indicators can
be clearly seen but its u
nique impact is not quantified in this report.
Building on established operational key performance
, the second part
of the
comparison report
evaluates operational performance in both systems from an airline and
point of view. The ai
rline perspective evaluates efficiency and predictability compared
to published schedules whereas the ANSP perspective provides a more in
depth analysis of ATM
related performance by phase of flight compared to an ideal
benchmark distance or time
majority of indicators, trends are provided from 2008 to 2015 with a
focus on the change in
performance from 201
to 2015.
Punctuality is generally considered to be the industry standard
indicator for air transport service
quality. The trend in punctua
lity was similar in the US and Europe between 2005 and 2009 when
both systems reached a comparable level of around 82% of
arrivals delayed by 15 minutes
in 2009.
Whereas in the US performance remained stable in 2010,
punctuality in Europe
to the worst level on record mainly due to weather
related delays (snow, f
conditions) and strikes
.. From 2010 to 2012, punctuality in Europe improved again and
to improve in the US. However in 2013 and 2014, whereas
punctuality in Europe r
largely unchanged, punctuality in the US saw a sharp decline.
In 2015 both systems
again a similar performance level
due to notable improvements in the US and
degradation in Europe.
In Europe and the US, a clear pattern of
summer and winter peaks is visible.
Whereas the winter
peaks are more the result of weather
related delays at airports, the summer peaks are driven by
the higher level of demand and resulting congestion but also
by convective weather in the en
route airspa
ce in the US and
a lack of en
route capacity in Europe.
the evaluation of air transport performance compared to airline
schedules provides
valuable first insights,
the involvement of many different stakeholders and the inclusion of
buffers in
limit the analysis from an air traffic management point of view.
Hence, the evaluation of ATM
related performance
in this comparison
aims to better understand
and quantify constraints imposed on airspace users through the
application of
air traffic flow
measures and therefore focuses more on the efficiency of
operations by phase of flight
compared to an unconstrained benchmark distance or time.
In order to minimize the effects of ATM system constraints, the US and
Europe use a comparabl
methodology to balance demand and capacity. This is
accomplished through the application of
an ďATFM planning and managementĒ process, which is a collaborative,
interactive capacity and
airspace planning process, where airport operators, ANSPs,
Users (AUs), military
authorities, and other stakeholders work together to improve
the performance of the ATM
Ground delays imposed by ATM
related departure restrictions were analysed by constrain
route or airport/terminal) and by causal factor (weather, capacity,
After the
performance due to weather and strikes in 2010, average ATM
related departure
delay in Europe decreased again until 2013. Between 2013 and 2015,
total ATM
related ground
delays increased in Europe by 43.4% whereas traffic grew by 4.1%
during the same time. The US
has also shown an improvement since 2008 some of which can
be attribut
ed to improving
weather and declining traffic levels. Between 2013 and 2015, total ATM
related ground delay in
the US decreased by 12.7% (mainly due to
related delays) with traffic levels
% during the same time. In Europe, th
e notable performance deterioration
between 2013 and 2015 was due to a significant increase in
capacity/volume related delays and
to a lesser extent due to weather.
related ground delay per flight in Europe (en
route and airport) was lower than in the
US in
2015 (1.
vs. 1.
minutes per flight) but the underlying reasons and the
application of ATM
related departure restrictions among facilities differ notably
between the two systems.
ascribes a greater percentage of delay to en
route facilities (
43% of total delay in 2015) while in
the US the large majority is ascribed to constraints at the airport
(82.1% of total delay in 2015).
The share of flights affected by ATM
related departure restrictions at origin airports differs
considerably between
the US and Europe. Despite a reduction from 5.0% of all flights in
2008 to
2.0% in 2015, flights in Europe are still over twice more
likely to be held at the gate or on the
ground for en
route constraints than in the US where the share of flights
by ATM
related departure restrictions was 0.8% in 2015.
For airport
related ground delays, the percentage of delayed flights at the gate
or on the surface
is slightly lower in Europe than in the US (2.3% vs. 2.5% in 2015).
However, with 51 minutes, the
lay per delayed flight in the US is notably higher than in Europe in
2015 (33 mins). In the US,
the airports which make up a large percentage of those delays are
airports like New York (LGA),
Chicago (ORD), Newark (EWR), San Francisco (SFO), New York (JFK)
, and Philadelphia (PHL) which
report a large number of hours with demand near or over capacity and
have l
ower predictability
of capacity

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