Air Traffic Control System Must be Privatized

Here is a paragraph from an article on Airlines.org about Matt Lauer, the host of the NBC Today show:

When NBC’s Matt Lauer interned for a day at (the John F. Kennedy airport) air traffic control in New York, he had a chance to see firsthand just how antiquated our current air navigation system is, and how hard our air traffic controllers work on a daily basis to keep our skies safe. Lauer’s Today co-host Al Roker was shocked to see controllers using “little strips of paper” to (keep track of) the most technologically advanced planes ever developed. Lauer also noted that ground-based radar was used to monitor flight traffic. This antiquated WWII-era radar technology keeps planes from flying as directly and efficiently as they could, costing passengers both time and money. Air traffic controllers could do their jobs more efficiently with updated technology.

This air traffic control system is operated by an agency of the federal government, the Federal Aviation Administration. That is why it uses antiquated equipment that private-sector airlines abandoned 60 years ago.

This is classic government socialism, but then they claim – as usual – that they do not have enough “funding” to update the air traffic system.

Baloney. Where does private industry in America get the “funding” to adopt the most modern technology?

They spend the money gladly, even if it is borrowed, since it pays for itself quickly through efficiency. Even small businesses do so, like buying or upgrading computers or even buying a new building to operate in. But this common sense never applies to the government. Reports Airlines.org:

The only way to adequately meet the modernization and staffing challenges is to adopt comprehensive reform. This would overhaul our nation’s approach to air traffic control to enhance safety and allow for reliable funding for long-term capital planning and systemic technology upgrades. An independent, not-for-profit corporation would have the ability to implement needed changes by avoiding bureaucratic red tape and receiving sustainable funding from user fees rather than be beholden to the political process.

As usual they are still talking about the “reform” that we conservatives have been talking about for 50 years now. Yet now the liberals contend that any privatization must be an “independent, not-for-profit corporation” that takes over.

Wrong again. Non-profit companies are much like government – they become politicized entities according to who controls them. The air traffic control system really needs a private company, outside of political influence, to take over and to apply common-sense economic principles.

A good role model is the US passenger airline system which is composed of private-sector companies that do a great job moving 2 million American passengers every day over long distances, often under difficult circumstance like the weather.

Meanwhile heavily subsidized Amtrak moves only 84,000 daily, while many thousands of them are train activists who insist on riding a train when there are much cheaper and faster alternatives. Amtrak often cannot even move just a few hundred passengers without excessive cost, delay, discomfort, derailment, grievance, equipment failure or breakdown. Millions of Americans have ridden Amtrak and said, “Never again!”

Then liberals contend over and over that the US needs a brand-new high-speed rail network, in separate new corridors, to move passengers between cities, like Europe has.

More nonsense. The US moves passengers on airlines much faster and generally for lower cost than trains. And we move them on intercity buses, which make a profit in the private sector. And in cars. Nikitas3.com has even suggested jet-powered helicopters carrying 100 passengers each and zipping between medium-distance cities (200 to 400 miles apart) in record time. Each would be slightly larger than an intercity bus. This would be much more efficient, energy efficient, and faster than Amtrak.

Private-sector budget airlines are very popular in Europe, costing a fraction of train tickets and going up to 10 times faster. Even travelers in third-world countries now commonly use airlines to get from place to place.

Europe’s high-speed passenger trains like the French TGV and Italian Freccia Rossa (red arrow) are touted as technological wonders and energy savers that America should envy and emulate. They are not. They are extremely costly to build, operate and maintain; they use lots of extra energy to move at high speed; they devastate the environment by bulldozing new corridors through the countryside; and they have been shown not to be drawing travelers out of their automobiles, like proponents claim, but they are drawing passengers out of regular-speed trains. This means that Europe now is maintaining not one but two expensive, taxpayer-subsidized passenger rail systems to move the same number of passengers.

Trains are the least efficient way to move passengers. Trains are useful where there is no alternative, like commuter trains transporting workers into cities at rush hour, or on subways within cities. Otherwise intercity passenger trains are a 19th century technology. Trains are built with a lot of steel and are very heavy and so they generally consume more or much more energy per passenger than buses, cars or jets.

And when you see the train activists reporting on how energy-efficient trains are they are always calculating that the train is 100% fully loaded. Yet usually they never are full. Amtrak often runs with low passenger loads like 30%. Airlines have much higher average loads, up to 80% and more.

Train tracks are very expensive to maintain. Trains themselves are too. Passenger trains are very noisy and so are bad for “the environment”; this includes constant horn honking at road crossings. Even worse gasoline and airline tickets in Europe are heavily taxed to subsidize passenger trains. Here is a Nikitas3.com analysis that explodes the myths of European railroads.

Yet liberals are totally obsessed with trains and have been promising us since Amtrak was founded in 1971 that Amtrak would be whisking passenger between cities at a profit in no time.

This isn’t going to happen – 45 years later Amtrak still gets $1.5 billion in subsidies annually, or $50 for every single ticket sold. But that is no surprise. Hardly any passenger trains anywhere in the world make a profit. Japan’s famous Bullet Trains were government-run and owned since they opened in 1964 but they had such a devastating effect on that nation’s economy and debt that they were put under private management way back in 1987.

Amtrak is a decrepit system controlled by corrupt managers who run it like old-style labor bosses. Amtrak has antiquated equipment, some of it from the 1960s. (That sounds like the air traffic control system.) It operates long cross-country routes that passengers could cover much more efficiently by air.

One single route from Chicago to Seattle loses $70 million a year and does so while moving just a small number of passengers. These trains also are interfering with the busy freight railroads on whose tracks they travel. These Amtrak routes should be eliminated immediately.

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