Airplanes taxi at Heathrow Airport in London on May 29. (Andy Rain/European Pressphoto Agency)

As a former Federal Aviation Administration senior executive with more than 30 years of experience in air traffic control, I believe it is a very big mistake to privatize such an important government function. My experiences range from an entry-level trainee to managing several major air traffic control facilities. I spent several years in the engineering and development arenas of the FAA. These experiences have taught me that the air carrier industry has been and always will be the biggest player and have the greatest influence on FAA operational matters. 

Carriers are rightly concerned with the dollar costs of any proposed procedural change. They have always had a seat at the table with FAA management, who have the final authority to make professional and prudent decisions. The less-represented members of the aviation community could rely on the FAA to look out for their interests. This balance worked well. Giving this authority to the airlines would undermine the integrity of the air traffic control system. The chickens would be running the henhouse.

But the need to make a major move on the engineering and development side has much merit. Airlines and other users have been subjected to undue costs by FAA pressure to install equipment to accommodate future systems that sometimes don’t materialize. There seems to be no sense of urgency on the part of folks managing the NexGen effort.

Edmund Spring, Fredericksburg