Time to privatize air traffic control?

Those favoring less government may be about to land a big one in their campaign. The government reportedly is considering getting out of the air traffic control business and turning it over to private industry.

The sequester, the budget failure that led to across-the-board cuts, apparently has given former opponents of privatization of the air transportation control system a reason to consider it, Bloomberg reports today.

The FAA cut $637 million from its $16 billion budget and faces more cuts next week and some people want to isolate funding air safety from politicians.

“It makes sense to examine the alternatives for operating and funding the nation’s air-traffic control system,” Craig Fuller, who stepped down as president of the Frederick, Md.-based Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association earlier this month, said in an e-mail to Bloomberg.

That’s a pretty big statement, considering that privatizing air traffic control services most certainly would come with user fees, which Fuller’s organization has vehemently opposed for years.

The model for privatizing would likely be Canada, where every flight is charged based on its weight. “After years of success, it is clear that the privatized Canadian and British systems work,” Joshua L. Schank, president and chief executive of the Eno Center for Transportation, wrote in April:

No international travelers think they should avoid British or Canadian airspace for safety reasons. Union leaders concerned about the specter of lost jobs might consider that jobs are getting hit with today’s budget cuts.

Perhaps the sequester can have a positive impact on air travel if it gets us moving toward better organization of the FAA, air traffic control and air traffic safety regulation.