Monitoring Developments in the FAA

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Monitoring Developments in the FAA

42ND ANNUAL CONFERENCE, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 17-21 March 2003

WP No. 160

Monitoring Developments in the FAA


In was noted at Geneva 2001 that IFATCA receives a number of reports detailing ongoing work within Eurocontrol but very little information with regard to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the United States.

As the FAA is responsible for the management of a considerable percentage of global air traffic and airspace, it was felt by convention that developments within the FAA air traffic system could have considerable impact on IFATCA MAs.

This working paper is an on-going work item assigned to SC4 as a result of those discussions in Geneva, 2001.


The FAA has developed a long-term modernization plan for it National Airspace System (NAS) called “NAS Architecture”. The goal of the NAS Architecture plan is to modernize the system and improve capabilities and services to the year 2015.

The plan is divided in to three implementation phases:

  • Phase 1 (1998 – 2002) focused on sustaining essential air traffic control services and delivering early user benefits. Free Flight Phase 1 will be implemented. Controller computer workstations will begin major upgrades. Satellite-based navigation systems will be deployed, and air-to-air surveillance will be introduced. The “Year 2000” computer problem will be fixed.
  • Phase 2 (2003 – 2007) concentrates on deploying the next generation of communications, navigation, and surveillance (CNS) equipment and the automation upgrades necessary to accommodate new CNS capabilities. Satellite-based navigation systems will be further augmented in local areas for more precise approaches. New digital radios that maximize the spectrum channels will be installed. As users equip, automatic dependent surveillance ground equipment will be installed to extend air traffic control surveillance services to non-radar areas. Tools from Phase 1 will be deployed throughout the NAS and upgraded as necessary.
  • Phase 3 (2008 – 2015) completes the required infrastructure and integration of automation advancements with the new CNS technologies, enabling additional Free Flight capabilities throughout the NAS. NAS-wide information services are planned.

The plan is further divided in to seven general sections:

  • Communication
  • Navigation
  • Surveillance
  • Aviation Weather
  • Avionics
  • Free Flight Phase 1
  • Automation Infrastructure


On Dec. 7, 2000, U.S. President Bill Clinton signed Executive Order 13180 calling for the establishment within the FAA of a performance-based organization known as Air Traffic Organization (ATO). The ATO contains all of the elements of air traffic, including research, acquisitions, and other components. While this Executive Order moved the FAA toward a more business-like operation, it did not commercialize or privatize air traffic control services. In fact, the first line of the Executive Order refers to air traffic services as “an inherently governmental function.”

On June 4, 2002, a Presidential Executive Order was signed stripping air traffic control of its “inherently governmental” designation.

On June 13, 2002, the U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta stated that although the Department is preparing to establish a new performance-based Air Traffic Organization (ATO) within FAA, it would not at this stage propose further privatization moves for the agency.

Currently, the U.S. Congress does not have any pending legislation to privatize the air traffic control system. However, some government officials and members of Congress do support the concept.

Collective Bargaining

The MA is in the final year of their contract and has offered the FAA a two year contract extension. The current contract includes work rules that would be unchanged and pay agreements that have automatic increases based on the congressional cost of living increase. To date, the FAA has not accepted this offer.


The staffing agreement expires next year and is not tied to the contract. The MA plans to renegotiate it even if the contract is extended. The FAA is currently at the negotiated staffing number, but the MA does not believe it is not enough. The Government Accounting Office produced a report that supported. The MA’s claims that more staff was needed to better prepare for the coming waive of controller retirements.

To this end, a bill was introduced in the U.S. Congress, which would provide an incentive for controllers to postpone their retirements. The Federal Air Traffic Controller Annuity Computation Act of 2002 would aid controllers under the Civil Service Retirement System to allow them to receive a two-percent annuity for years of service after 20. Federal firefighters and law enforcement officers under CSRS currently receive this same annuity.

Based on FAA data, over 50 percent of the workforce will be eligible to retire by 2010.

Post Sept 11th Traffic levels

Overall air traffic remains approximately 2% below pre September 11th levels, however peak hours remain at or above September 11th levels, and certain major airports, like Chicago have seen traffic increases.


Developments within the United States Air Traffic System of particular concern to IFATCA include areas of rapidly changing technology and procedures that are redefining the job of the ATCO. These include Free Flight and ASAS – of which both topics are covered in detail by other IFATCA working papers.

Developments in the areas of collective bargaining and human resources are unresolved. The move toward privatization of the United States Air Traffic System could have significant effect on other MAs and should continue to be monitored.


This WP be accepted as Information Material.

SC4 continue to monitor professional developments in the FAA.


Blueprint for NAS Modernization. An Overview of the National Airspace System (NAS) Architecture Version 4.0 January 1999.


Last Update: September 29, 2020  

March 21, 2020   688   Jean-Francois Lepage    2003    

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