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Air Traffic Control: Characteristics and Performance of Selected International Air Navigation Service Providers and Lessons Learned from Their Commercialization

GAO-05-769 Published: Jul 29, 2005. Publicly Released: Jul 29, 2005.
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In the past, governments worldwide owned, operated, and regulated air navigation services, viewing air traffic control as a governmental function. But as nations faced increasing financial strains, many governments decided to shift the responsibility to an independent air navigation service provider (ANSP) that operates as a business. As of March 2005, 38 nations worldwide had commercialized their air navigation services, fundamentally shifting the operational and financial responsibility for providing these services from the national government to an independent commercial authority. GAO selected five ANSPs--in Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom--to develop, as requested, a descriptive analysis of commercialized ANSPs that illustrated similarities and differences in ownership, length of experience with commercialization, and size and scope of operations. This report addresses the following questions: (1) What are common characteristics of commercialized ANSPs in selected foreign countries? (2) What do available data show about how the safety, cost, and efficiency of air navigation services have changed since commercialization? (3) What are some key lessons learned about the commercialization of air navigation services?

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Air traffic control systemsCommercial aviationComparative analysisCost controlInternal controlsLessons learnedSafety regulationSafety standardsTransportation safetyForeign governmentsPrivatization