How Privatizing Air Traffic Control Could Affect Satellite Navigation’s Role in Aviation


Nav Canada is now partnering with Iridium to launch a global plane-tracking service called Aireon that will give air traffic controllers real-time data on planes flying anywhere in the world — preventing the sort of tragic search seen two years ago when Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

Privatized operators have a proven track record for safety and better service, argued Nancy Graham, a former FAA official who served for eight years as the director of the Air Navigation Bureau of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) before retiring in 2015.

“There’s never been any degradation in safety, and there’s only been better services as a result,” Graham told Inside GNSS

Among those benefits, she told Inside GNSS, is the ability to implement new technologies faster — both new technologies that use the airspace such as commercial drones, and technologies that improve ATC operations such as automatic dependent surveillance–broadcast (ADS-B). An ADS-B equipped plane sends out its GPS-determined location to air traffic control and to those nearby aircraft that equipped to receive the signal. The technology, which must be adopted by the vast majority of planes operating in the United States by 2020, is also the basis for the Aireon system.