Canada’s Private ATC Wins Award

Canada’s private air traffic control system, Nav Canada, recently received its second “Eagle Award” from the International Air Transport Association. The Eagle Awards “honor air navigation service providers and airports for outstanding performance in customer satisfaction, cost efficiency, and continuous improvement.”

In naming Nav Canada “the best” ATC, the IATA said the following in its press release:

Nav Canada is a global leader in the efficient implementation and reliable delivery of air traffic control procedures and technologies. It actively engages its customers at all levels in regular and meaningful consultations. “The performance of Nav Canada has been enhanced by the right technical and operational investments following extensive cost/benefit analyses. Nav Canada’s effective management has allowed the company to reduce its charges in 2006 and 2007, and freeze them at that level ever since,” Bisignani said.

Unlike the government-run ATC system in the U.S., Nav Canada is a privately run, not-for-profit corporation. As a Cato essay on privatization explains, the U.S. system leaves a lot to be desired while the private Canadian system has been a tremendous success:

The Federal Aviation Administration has been mismanaged for decades and provides Americans with second-rate air traffic control. The FAA has struggled to expand capacity and modernize its technology, and its upgrade efforts have often fallen behind schedule and gone over budget…The GAO has had the FAA on its watch list of wasteful “high-risk” agencies for years…Canada privatized its ATC system in 1996. It set up a private, nonprofit ATC corporation, Nav Canada, which is self-supporting from charges on aviation users. The Canadian system has received high marks for sound finances, solid management, and investment in new technologies.

Critics of privatization claim that it’s “too risky” to place such activities in the hands of the private sector. Canada’s success undermines that argument. In fact, air traffic control is far too important for such government mismanagement and should therefore be privatized. In doing so, policymakers should look to our neighbors to the north as a model for how to get the job done right.

See this Cato essay for more on airports and air traffic control.