Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Administration Offers Plan for Air Control Corporation

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Administration Offers Plan for Air Control Corporation

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON _ The Clinton administration, hoping to strip away the tangle of federal rules that critics say have stifled modernization, launched an effort Tuesday to switch the nation's air traffic control system to a corporation.

"Today's announcement is good news for the traveling public, for the airlines, and for the controllers and technicians who keep the air traffic control system running," said Transportation Secretary Federico Pena.

He said a federal corporation would be able to purchase technology more flexibly, borrow for long-term capital investments, "and deploy and reward its workers more effectively."

He said the current system, operated by the Federal Aviation Administration, is hampered by an out-of-date personnel system, antiquated equipment and a complex process for replacing it, and the need for long-term funding.

Vice President Al Gore joined Pena for a news conference at National Airport and said, "I want to serve notice that we mean business about this."

Gore held up a vacuum tube representing the older technology now used in the air traffic control system. In his other hand, he held a computer chip that he said can do more work than 3.5 million of the vacuum tubes.

The American air traffic control system is the safest in the world "thanks to the Herculean efforts of the people in the control towers," Gore said. "We need to move forward with change before catastrophe strikes."

The plan announced Tuesday calls for establishing a government-run corporation, funded by fees paid by airlines, to manage the system that controls movement of an estimated 22,000 commercial airline flights daily.

Currently, government corporations run the Postal Service, Tennessee Valley Authority, Amtrak and some other activities. The idea of adding air traffic control has been kicking around industry and government for years, and was revived in Gore's proposals to "reinvent government."

Separating air traffic control from the FAA could permit faster installation of new technology, save money and improve service while still protecting safety, said Frank Kruesi, who heads the Transportation Department committee that worked up the plan.

But the idea faces a mixed reception in Congress, where opposition has already been expressed by Rep. …

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