Reason Foundation

Reason Foundation

A Statement Concerning the Future of the U.S. Air Traffic Control System

May 1, 2001

Each of us has held a senior position within the FAA, and each of us continues to consult on aviation issues. In reviewing the FAA’s performance over the past decade—including recent years since enactment of various reforms by Congress—we have concluded the following:

Air traffic control is a 24 hour-a-day, 7 day-a-week high-tech service business. It can and should be operated by a separate corporate entity, paid directly by its customers, and directly accountable to its customers for its performance. This country can no longer afford to provide this 21st-century service using a 1950s-type organizational and funding approach.

Attempted reforms of FAA’s personnel and procurement systems have failed to materially change the agency’s organizational culture, which is necessarily bureaucratic, risk-averse, and not sufficiently customer-focused. Despite the increased funding promised by AIR-21, the FAA’s revenue stream is still uncertain, dependent on the ups and downs of the federal budget process. And efforts to convert the FAA’s Air Traffic Services into a "performance-based organization" within FAA will not convert it into a sufficiently customer-focused entity.

For the FAA to both provide air traffic control services and regulate the safety of ATC operations is a conflict of interest. The ATC service provider should be regulated at arms-length by the FAA, just as it regulates air carriers, aircraft and engine manufacturers, and all other components of the aviation system.

Therefore, we support the creation of a not-for-profit air traffic control corporation, along the lines proposed by Reason Public Policy Institute in its Policy Study No. 278 dated February 2001.


John McLucas
Administrator, 1973-77

Langhorne Bond
Administrator, 1977-1981

Allan McArtor
Administrator, 1987-1989

David Hinson
Administrator, 1993-1997

Al Blackburn
Associate Administrator for Policy, 1986-1988

Tony Broderick
Associate Administrator for Regulation & Certification, 1985-1996

George Donohue
Associate Administrator for Research & Acquisitions, 1994-1998

Robert Donahue
Associate Administrator for Airports, 1987-90

Michael Goldfarb
Chief of Staff, 1987-1989

Larry Hecker
Deputy Administrator, 1987

Sandy Murdock
Chief Counsel, 1981-1985
Acting Deputy Administrator, 1984

Joe DelBalzo
Executive Director for Engineering and Development and Operations, 1989-1992
Acting Administrator, 1993

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