Thursday, July 28, 2011

Aviation in America: How to Spoil a Good Reputation

Sometimes being a mom helps me make sense of the world, because even when the world isn’t sensible, it at least is familiar. Take, for example, spoiled children. We’ve all seen these children, pitching a fit at the grocery store because mommy and daddy won’t purchase that tempting something on display in the check out line. (Not, my kids of course.) 

This is the image that comes to mind when I read about America’s budget impasse between Democrats and Republicans.

Only in this case, something more significant than supermarket embarrassment is at stake. When the Republicans inserted into the Federal Aviation Administration’s operational re-authorization bill, a provision to eliminate subsidies to rural airports, the Democrats said “hold on” and refused to pass the legislation. Without a house and senate agreement, the FAA lost a chunk of its authority to operate

It immediately furloughed 4,000 workers and suspended action on a number of projects including the extremely important work moving US airspace to next gen capability. 

Just to be clear, it is a $16 million difference of opinion that is costing the federal government $30 million a day in uncollectable aviation taxes alone. 

Yes, this is a costly game and I’m not only talking about money, I’m talking about a loss of international prestige and leadership.  Let’s just look at the next gen aspects for a minute. Australia and Tibet have more advanced air navigation systems than the USA. The FAA has been plugging along at a pace that is frustrating US carriers and now this forced suspension of FAA spending will further slow progress.

As I travel around the world, the near unanimous impression of the FAA that I hear is that it is a premier aviation organization; Slow-to-act sometimes, sure. Not distant enough from political considerations in its decision-making, undoubtedly. But as an agency effective in achieving and maintaining high levels of safety, it has been and still is a global leader. That’s what I hear anyway.

Until recently the same might be said of American government as a whole. But these days it is looks like the spoiled children have grown up and taken their tantrums to Washington where they are embarrassing themselves, eroding progress in aviation and discrediting the nation.


Anonymous said...

Christine - Glad to see this get some exposure. I would mention that one side refuses to set up the conference committee for the bill, which would be where a compromise on that $16MM difference would be hashed out. In this instance, to say each side shares equal blame would not accurate. - Chris

Editor said...

A bit of full disclosure - The 16 mil EAS cut wasn't inserted in the House bill until the Senate passed a version incorporating a contentious labor provision. There's a little tit for tat going on.

Personally, I suggest we continue to shut down all non-essential FAA activities just to see if they are missed.

Anonymous said...

The news channel reports about the U.S. crisis unanonimously focus on the fact, that this is a cheap power game by the Republicans and the danger coming from the fact, that the conservative fraction faces internal opposition by the ultra-orthodox Teaparty.
The problem: The U.S. looses credibility (not only in aviation). And ultra-orthodox is not a single tit better in the U.S. than in the islamic world. It reflects a narrow-mindedness that does not care about breaking good and turning the world into a turmoil they may not be able to handle. The recent crisis might just have been a coughing fit before turning into a life-threatening flu.
Bad, as it does not only ruin the world of those idiots, but will likely result in a market shift and a permanent loss of U.S. leadership. But they seemingly don't give a f***ing damn!!!

Unknown said...

The lose of regional airports has been going on for years coupled with the lose of rail travel it isolates communities that are connected only by roads. The cost of maintaining, or lack of maintaining, the road infrastructure far exceeds any form of mass transit. America has been steadily sinking into the malaise of shortsightedness.

Anonymous said...

You missed the union-bashing part of the bill, plus the 80,000 contractor workers laid off, plus the $30 million per day in lost taxes.
But, hell, it is for a point of principle, I guess driving the bus off of the cliff is justified.

Anonymous said...

Let's be clear: The problem here is that the Republicans will take and hold a positon that makes no sense for purely political reasons. That's no way to run a country or any of its' agencies. Good responsible Republicans, a group in which I count myself, should be aghast at some of the positions taken. The FAA issue is but one example.

DantheMan said...

Dear Christine,

I pray you do an article on the American Airlines Pilot and Flight Attendant who were assaulted at Miami Airport.
The crime, besides assault, is that these two thugs had bail set. This is clearly a "No Bail" case.
Did we forget about 9/11 already? All these security measures for folks to measure up to and we have bail set for two terror suspects?
It makes me question our society today. Are we so politically correct that we give a hand slap ?I notice this story, which was out yesterday, is not in the news today.Please Christine, do a story on this and let the citizens of this country know what happened,
Dan Delaney

Jim Blaszczak said...

This is my comparison of the U S Congress and a airline flight crew.

What is going on in Washington right now is analogous to the crew of an airliner arguing over the cabin temperature while ignoring the fact that there is an engine on fire and all the hydraulics are gone.

Our government, like that airplane, is not a flawed design. There will be challenges from time to time, but it's about incompetence at the controls.

Anonymous said...

What baffles me regarding the recent funding problem for the FAA is that it was allowed to continue for so many days before someone actually read the language of the bill and figured out that they didn't have to change a thing to pass it and keep the status quo! Have we gotten to the point now that our elected representatives, from any party, are above reading and understanding what they take a position on and/or vote on? I find this situation totally unacceptable as a non-partisan citizen! If only someone had taken the time to read the temporary funding bill completely prior to the expiration of the previous funding authority the furlough of FAA employees and the cease-work orders for thousands of construction workers would not have happened. The cost of paying those people for making up their lost wages should come from every member of Congress who couldn't take the time to find the temporary solution to this issue until these folks had to go without paychecks!