Florida leaders urge to modernize outdated air traffic control system

Staff Report | DFW Newsflash | November 2017

TALAHASSEE, — Citizens for On Time Flights announced that House Speaker Richard Corcoran (R-37), Minority Leader Janet Cruz (D-62) and nearly a dozen other officials and business leaders, including Miami-Dade Aviation Department CEO Emilio T. Gonzalez, the Florida and Jacksonville Chambers of Commerce, and the Republican Mayor of Jacksonville Lenny Curry, have written letters to Florida’s congressional delegation, including Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-26) and Rep. Kathy Castor (D-14), to urge them to support reforms to modernize the nation’s outdated and inefficient air traffic control (ATC) system.

The letters encourage support for the 21st Century Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization (AIRR) Act, a bipartisan proposal before Congress that would move ATC oversight to an independent, non-profit organization managed by a 13-member board that includes all aviation stakeholders. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) would continue to ensure the safety of all fliers.

“The current structure has proven itself incapable of bringing about the modernization that is needed,” wrote Democratic Leader Cruz and Democratic Leader Designate Kionne McGhee (D-117) in a letter to Senator Nelson. “Without change, we will not be able to deliver the critical aviation infrastructure our citizens require to compete in the 21st century economy.”

These reforms will encourage greater efficiency in the nation’s ATC system, which currently relies on WWII-era radar-based technology. Independent oversight will help expedite implementation of the FAA’s modernization program, known as NextGen, and will make it easier to move ATC operations to a satellite-based GPS system. These changes will help reduce delays and decrease flight times.

“The FAA has a duty to protect and ensure the safety of the flying public,” wrote Speaker Richard Corcoran. “By removing the FAA from the operation of air traffic control and letting the agency regulate for safety, we can improve efficiency, save money, and remain the world’s safest country for air travel. For 30 years, the government has debated how to solve this problem. It’s time we acted to reform the infrastructure of our air traffic control system.”

Florida air passengers are inconvenienced daily by the nation’s antiquated air traffic control system and the state ranks as one of the worst in the country for traveler delays caused by ATC problems. More than half of flight delays at Miami International Airport and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport are attributable to the National Airspace System, which includes ATC operations, according to US Department of Transportation data. From 2010 to 2016, passengers at the state’s largest airports have seen a 34% increase in minutes delayed attributed to air traffic control.

“Many ATC workers currently use an antiquated WWII-era system of ground-based radar technology and paper strips to track flights across the globe,” wrote Miami-Dade Aviation Department head Emilio T. Gonzalez in his letter to Rep. Curbelo. “With the appropriate level of funding we will finally be able to fully deploy GPS-based NextGen technology, which will strengthen both the efficiency and safety of this vital system. This will ultimately result in fewer flight delays and cancellations, shorter flight times, less fuel consumption and lower carbon emissions.”

These Florida state lawmakers and business leaders join the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, the Air Line Pilots Association International, the Association of Flight Attendants and all major U.S. passenger airlines in supporting the 21st Century AIRR Act.

SOURCE Citizens for On Time Flights