With rare access into the control tower of O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, a look at how America’s air transportation system –- once a source of national pride –- has become a frustrating example of the country’s struggling infrastructure. In the fourth segment of a five part series on infrastructure in the U.S., PBS NewsHour Senior Correspondent Ray Suarez reports with Blueprint America on the crowded skies above.
America’s 2008 air transportation needs are currently met with 1980s technology, resulting in all too familiar gridlock both on the ground and in the skies. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) estimates that air traffic will double in the next two decades. But even before rising fuel prices hammered airlines and their margins, the infrastructure that our airlines is built on – runways, flight paths and air traffic control technology – was already inadequate, outmoded and unable to grow its capacity. A planned upgrade announced in 2004 will not be completed until at least 2020 – at a cost of more than $20 billion.