IS TRUMP RIGHT ABOUT AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL IN THE UNITED STATES?

Q – I read a piece about Trump where he was quoted as saying that “while every passenger is boarding with GPS in their pocket, our air traffic system still runs on radar.”  We fly four or five times a year. Is this an example of fake news or should we be worried”? I just assume as a leading country we have the best air traffic technology. I don’t think that teenage video gamers are running our flight systems.

A – Actually that might be an improvement. Trump is essentially correct. All you have to do to understand the current technology is look at the way that air traffic controllers hand over a plane flying from one sector to another. Towers in US airports, and you may not believe this, use paper strips to show a plane’s position. Our system runs on radar and is, essentially, a system developed int he mid nineteen forties. We need complete modernization but let’s at least use “digital slips:”, a system the Canadians have had for the past dozen years. But we’re not going to get modernization. The transition to digital slips has been pushed back and it is now estimated that the FAA will roll it out somewhere around 2015.

Trump has indicated that the air traffic control system in the US ought to be turned over to a nonprofit corporation. It is a solution that might improve the timeline for modernization. 

In the meantime, you might consider flying on Air Canada through Canadian airspace.