Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Conundrum of Flight


Airlines have perennially failed to operate at a profit without abusing their employees and passengers and cutting every corner possible, including safety. Despite this, the airline industry wants us to believe they can band together and operate the nations air traffic control system fairly, efficiently and most important to those who fly, safely.
Major airlines and their trade associations are pushing hard to overhaul the nation’s air traffic control system, urging the Trump administration to take it out of government hands for the first time in nearly 60 years.

They have taken their effort to the White House, meeting last week with President Donald Trump.

His administration has not yet said whether it will back the plan to transfer the system from the Federal Aviation Administration, where it’s been since the agency’s beginnings in 1958, to a private entity.

In her Senate confirmation hearing last month, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao was noncommittal.

“Obviously this is an issue of great importance,” she told the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. “This is a huge issue that needs to have national consensus.”

They’re facing opposition from Democrats and a few congressional Republicans, including Kansas Republican Sen. Jerry Moran and groups representing general-aviation manufacturers. They said privatization could hurt small airports and companies that make business and personal aircraft. They’re concerned that the new board governing the system would raise fees for smaller planes to use the airspace.

The issue could tie up a long-term reauthorization of the FAA, which lawmakers must pass by Sept. 30. The failure of Congress to pass a similar bill in the summer of 2011 nearly brought the country’s aviation system to a halt.

“I know that will continue to be a major piece of contention,” Moran said in an interview. “It divides the aviation industry.”

The industry wants to accelerate the rollout of NextGen, a satellite-based control system that would replace ground-based radar technology. Privatization supporters believe that a nongovernment organization could finish NextGen more quickly and efficiently than the FAA.

Moran, a member of the commerce committee, wants the FAA to use available technology to finish the job. He called the privatization plan “a step further than necessary.”

The National Business Aviation Association said in a statement Monday that it could not support any plan to privatize the nation’s air traffic control system.

“The U.S. has the world’s safest, most complex and most diverse aviation system, and significant progress is being made on implementation of NextGen,” it said. “We want to continue that progress, and not have the debate get distracted by a decades-old push by the airlines to take over the nation’s aviation system.”
The idea that the airlines would adequately fund NextGen to the finish or be able to operate it efficiently without shortchanging general aviation in the process is ludicrous. But with the lunatics running the asylum it it altogether too possible.

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