U.S. Air Traffic Control: The Moral Equivalent of Semaphores and Signal Fires


Adventure is back in air travel as 60,000 passengers on 600 cancelled flights found out, when the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) medieval air traffic control (ATC) system crashed earlier this week.

According to Reason Foundation transportation maven Robert Poole, the problem is that the U.S. ATC system is a step up from semaphores and signal fires, but not by all that much. Poole explains:

Today's ATC system is built on a 1950s paradigm or concept of operations. Because it is so imprecise, it must create huge buffer space around each plane, wasting valuable airspace. All communications between ATC and planes go by voice—on frequencies that are jammed and relaying numbers that can be mis-heard. It is hugely labor-intensive, when software could accomplish many routine tasks in keeping planes safely separated.

Go here for some excellent Reason Foundation proposals on how to finally bring America's ATC system into the 21st century.