Recent efforts to turn national air traffic control (ATC) over to a nongovernmental entity have been met with fierce debate and faced several obstacles, but the House of Representatives may soon vote on the 21st Century Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization Act. The idea of air traffic control reform has persisted for years, but never gained any real political traction until recently. Supporters of the reform movement are calling for a private nonprofit to assume responsibility for ATC, claiming that the move will bring shorter wait times, more efficient routes, and fewer delays. Many opposed to privatization point out that the move would strip Congress of its authority to supervise ATC, while others argue it would result in giving too much power to the airline industry.
On Nov. 1, Brookings convened a panel of aviation experts for a conversation about the pros and cons of privatizing the air traffic control industry. Is this push purely an attempt for political power? What are the risks and opportunities that may arise from shifting the control of air traffic to the private sector?