Privatization of Air Traffic Control


The debate regarding privatization of the US Air Traffic Control (ATC) has been getting intense recently. Although the idea has been embraced by majority of the stakeholders, there are individuals who still believe ATC functions should always be managed by the Federal government. Despite all the controversies that surround this topic, a close analysis of the funding and functioning of ATC system reveals there is no better time to privatize the service than now. This paper discusses reasons that necessitate ATC privatization.


Air traffic control is a weighty matter considering the main concern is to guarantee safety (Freudenrich, 2001). Therefore, the ATC privatization debate should always be anchored on the need to enhance safety of air travellers. As Bachman notes (2013), increase in the number of air transport users has led to more activities in the sky. Consequently, there is need to strengthen air traffic control to match the increasing number of aeroplanes in the air. Unfortunately, analysis of the prevailing conditions reveals weakening of the US ATC.

Financial Constraints

The US government is facing financial deficit that has forced it to employ cost-cutting measures. Bachman observes that the move to reduce spending is affecting all government departments including the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) (2013). To put this into perspective, FAA cut costs by more than $600 million in 2013 and the reduction is expected to continue in 2014. The cost-cutting effects have already been felt in terms of flight delays because available resources are not enough to fully monitor the air space. As Bachman points out, apart from compromising safety, flight delays and cancellation can hurt the economy in several ways. Therefore, there is need to find alternative means to strengthen the US ATC.

Privatization Alternative

Although there are private investors with enough resources to run ATC functions, questions have been raised regarding their ability and willingness to observe the required standards. In this regard, there are countries that are doing remarkably well in relation to air traffic control after assigning the function to private companies. For example, in Canada, ATC is managed by a non-governmental body. As Schank notes, the Canadian government only plays the usual role of ensuring that private companies do not operate in a manner that compromises safety of its citizens and visitors. Other countries that have assigned management of air traffic control to private companies and are doing well include Britain, Germany and Australia. In this regard, the US government should not only privatise ATC, but also remain alert to ensure the entrusted company does not compromise safety while pursuing profits.


There is no doubt that the US air traffic control has been negatively affected by financial constraints. As a result, the American air space has become very un-safe. On the other hand, there are countries that have successfully used private firms to manage air traffic. Therefore, the US government should consider assigning ATC management to a private company to enhance safety and efficiency.

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