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While the ATA plan would probably improve skyway safety and efficiency somewhat, it wouldn't permit the new corporation to hire back fired controllers. So there would still be a shortage of qualified personnel. Nor would the ATA proposal do anything to reduce overcrowding at airports-the source of many delays.
"What is needed is an enterprise more like Comsat than the Postal Service," argues Robert W. Poole, Jr., president of the Reason Foundation, in a new study that advocates the outright sale of air-traffic control operations. (Among its other activities, the Reason Foundation publishes REASON.) Instead of a federal corporation, Poole advocates a nonprofit cooperative owned by air-system users, including airlines, private pilots, business-aircraft owners, pilots and controllers, and such federal users as the Defense Department and Customs Service.
This new enterprise, dubbed Airways Corp., would be modeled on Aeronautical Radio Inc., a successful user coop created in 1929 to provide communications and navigation services for several airlines. Because Airways Corp. wouldn't be part of the government, it could quickly cure the manpower problem by rehiring the fired controllers, as well as retired military controllers whom the FAA won't hire now. (Its employees would have the same rights to organize and strike as any other workers.)
Poole, an MIT-trained aerospace engineer by background, also suggests that the government turn over ownership of landing slots and control towers to the nation's airports, which could then charge market prices to users. Under the status quo, airlines get the use of valuable landing rights for free. This is why there are often many more planes trying to take off and land in peak hours than airport capacity can really handle. The result: all that dead time hanging around with crying babies and cigarette puffers. If airlines had to pay the market price for their landing slots and control-tower use, traffic would even out a bit as more-popular times became more expensive.
Poole's more radical proposal has been widely reported in the aviation press and debated along with the ATA plan in Washington. Congress has until October 1 (when the current law expires) to decide which, if either, of these proposals to adopt. Until then, the future of flying will be, uh, up in the air.
â– Unconstitutional message in bottle. Random examination of federal employees' urine, ordered by President Reagan last fall in the heat of the war on drugs, "appears to be in serious trouble in the courts," according to the New York Times. In at least 13 cases, state and federal judges have ruled the tests violate the Fourth Amendment's search and seizure protections.
-Robert W. Poole, Jr., Lucy Braun, Bill Kauffman, and Virginia I. Postrel