Privatization: GAO Sees Positives

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The Government Accountability Office says countries that have privatized air navigation services have cut costs and their safety records haven't suffered. The GAO looked at the private systems in Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand and the United Kingdom to see how they stacked up (no pun intended) and what it found could fuel debate in the U.S. as the FAA and its controllers go through a fractious round of contract negotiations. The report says that in all cases, safety records have stayed the same or improved since commercialization. In particular, Canada and New Zealand both report a reduction in the number of incidents of loss of separation. It also found that all five companies cut costs while investing in new technology, something the FAA seems to be having trouble with. It also notes that general aviation operators have seen user fees increase. The GAO also wanted to look at the pitfalls of commercialization and it found a few. For instance, during the recent airline downturn, some companies faced revenue shortfalls. The report said commercial air navigation service providers "must be prepared to mitigate the effects of an industry downturn, whether through reserves, higher fees, cost cutting or other measures."