Paper-Pushing Flight Controllers See Future in Canada’s System


In the 20 years since it became an independent nonprofit corporation, NAV CANADA has transformed itself from a public agency struggling with antiquated technology into a global leader in air-traffic systems. It generated C$135 million ($105 million) over the past five years exporting its products. Its success has members of Congress calling for the oft-criticized U.S. air traffic system to be spun off from the Federal Aviation Administration into a structure like Canada’s.

Its technology is now in use in eight other countries, including Australia, the U.K. and Dubai. NAV CANADA has leaped ahead of the U.S. in using more efficient e-mail-like communications with pilots instead of radio voice calls. Canada’s computer system for tracking planes over the oceans has been adopted by the U.K. And NAV CANADA is a majority partner in a company building a revolutionary space-based system of tracking planes that will for the first time work in the world’s most remote oceans and polar regions. The new firm, U.S.-based Aireon LLC, is negotiating deals to sell this tracking data to other countries.

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