Foreign Countries’ Processes for Operating Air Transportation Systems
At the Subcommittee’s hearing on Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reforms, the Assistant Inspector General for Aviation Audits highlighted our work on other nations’ air traffic management structures, which we conducted at the Subcommittee’s request. The Assistant Inspector General testified that the four countries we examined—Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, and France—have separated their air traffic services from their safety oversight and regulatory functions. While safety and regulatory functions remain government-controlled, each nation has commercialized its air traffic control function into an air navigation service provider (ANSP) using various organizational structures. The ANSPs are financially self-supporting and finance their operations primarily through user fees, but have borrowing authority for modernization and infrastructure projects. The Assistant Inspector General also noted that the ANSPs do not embark on large-modernization efforts or conduct extensive aviation research and development. Rather, they implement new technologies incrementally, using a variety of methods, such as purchasing commercial-off-the-shelf technologies. The Assistant Inspector General also highlighted factors that the Subcommittee may wish to take into account if it considers making changes to FAA’s organizational and financing structures. These include differences between the U.S. aviation system and other countries’ systems as well as lessons learned from examining other nations’ experiences in establishing independent air traffic organizations.