Behind the development of American aviation industry: are nearly half of the airport towers outsourced?

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 Behind the development of American aviation industry: are nearly half of the airport towers outsourced?


Because shortly after the strike, President Reagan began firing controllers who had not returned to work for more than 48 hours. In other words, the result of their strike was that they really didnt have to go to work anymore.

A total of 11443 controllers were subsequently fired for violating the Taft Hartley act, which prohibits federal employees from striking, and from becoming federal employees again.

Although the U.S. government immediately transferred general controllers and other relevant personnel to the civil aviation air traffic control system to ensure the operation of the civil aviation transportation system, many small airport towers were forced to close.

Many airport towers in the United States are outsourced

As of December 31, 2019, 256 airport towers (accounting for 49% of the total number of towers in the United States) have been outsourced to three different air traffic control service companies in the United States, with 11% of the operating budget of the towers in the United States, serving 29% of the take-off and landing sorties, and have been praised by pilots, airlines, flight schools and airports for a long time.

There are natural reasons for favorable comments. For navigable and small airports, having an outsourcing tower can significantly improve the operation efficiency and safety level of the airport, and better access to the national airspace system of the United States, so that it can stand out in the competition, attract more flight schools, fixed base operators and small Airlines to enter, thus significantly improving the airport revenue.

No one can build an outsourcing tower.

The airport applying for outsourcing tower will first be tortured by the soul of FAA aviation policy and Development Office cost-benefit analysis.

Of course, as a government agency, the FAA considers not how much money it will make, but how much safety and efficiency benefits it will bring after the establishment of the outsourcing tower according to the data of the airport. The cost is the cost of the establishment and future operation of the tower. In comparison, only outsourcing tower projects with revenue equal to or greater than the cost can be approved and allocated.

Subsequently, the FAA will determine the daily operation time of the tower based on the airport data, and the contractor (i.e. air traffic control service company) will formulate the operation and staffing plan based on this, which can only be implemented after the approval of FAA. Of course, if the airport also wants to extend the operation time of the tower, it can also bear the excess budget.

In order to ensure the operation safety of the tower, the outsourcing tower needs to follow the operation, training and safety standards consistent with other FAA directly subordinate towers, and accept the supervision and regular safety inspection of FAA.

Tower outsourcing, safety not outsourcing

According to a 2012 report on the planned operation of outsourcing tower by the attorney generals office of the U.S. Department of transportation, in the case of similar flight volume, the cost of outsourcing tower is not only far less than that of the tower directly under the FAA, but also the safety record is better than that of the tower directly under the FAA.

The report randomly selected 30 outsourcing towers and direct towers with similar flight volume for research, and found that the average cost of operating outsourcing towers was about $540000 in fiscal year 2010, while the cost of operating FAA direct towers was about $2 million.

So the question is, why do outsourcing towers save so much money? Is it really the American system?

According to the data, the retired military controllers in the outsourcing tower account for about 70% of the total employees. The advantage of this is obvious. Both the retired controllers of FAA and the military can be said to be experienced and experienced. Its almost impossible to directly start the tower of small airport; while the tower directly under FAA needs to be responsible for all kinds of training tasks, especially the initial training tasks for the newcomers just graduated from the air management college. In contrast, a large amount of training cost is thus saved by outsourcing tower, which is really a capitalist fleece.

In addition, experienced employees enable the outsourcing tower to maintain normal operation with fewer employees. According to the research in the above report, the average number of controllers employed by the outsourcing tower is about 6, while in the FAA tower, the number is 16.

According to the above report, in the tower comparison of similar living standards and flight volume, the annual salary of controllers outsourcing the tower is 56000 US dollars, while the annual salary of controllers directly under FAA is between 63000 US dollars and 85000 US dollars according to seniority.

Return to work after retirement

More experienced employees and no need to train new personnel make the number of errors or runway incursions caused by the outsourcing tower far less than the tower directly under the FAA.

However, the lack of an anonymous voluntary reporting system has led to doubts about the actual security level of the outsourcing tower. In a safety inspection of FAA, 30% of the controllers of outsourcing tower do not know the current definition of runway intrusion, and 40% of the controllers do not know the classification system of runway intrusion. This means that a lot of operational errors in outsourcing tower are likely to lead to subjective or objective underreporting events due to lack of awareness of personnel, which makes the safety data of outsourcing tower look very beautiful.

However, even if there are some flaws, outsourcing tower has more advantages than disadvantages for navigation and small airports. Especially in todays era when trump government is committed to reducing public expenditure, if not for the cheap outsourcing tower plan, FAA may have to close many direct towers located in small airports, thus making these airports become tower free airports. This will obviously bring greater security risks.

For China, where general aviation and small airports are booming, it is also a reference scheme to feel the outsourcing tower plan to cross the river.

reference:

[1]USCTA.2019ContractTowerAnnualReport.

[2]USDepartmentofTransportationOIG.AuditReport:AV-2013-009.

[3]FAA.FAAContractTowerProgram.