This past week, in a very-coordinated effort including lobbyists, airlines, past FAA officials and the always-loyal aviation media outlets, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster released his proposed legislation, the AIRR Act. The most significant element of the Aviation Innovation, Reform & Reauthorization Act is that it proposes to remove ATC from the FAA and place it into a corporate body with a governing panel consisting primarily of industry players.
Does FAA need reform? Absolutely. So, too, Congress needs reform. And both FAA and Congress need reform for the same reason: they are both failing to serve.
Our Founding Fathers designed a system that was to protect the delicate balance between government powers and the rights of individual citizens. This system means that, where a federal agency (such as FAA) is imposing burdens on communities (such as Charlotte, Boston, Flushing, Phoenix and many other ‘NextGen-victims’), the Congress will act to remedy the problem. But, due in no small part to both extreme gerrymandering and plutocratic allegiance, we have not had a functioning Congress for well over a decade. Instead, for the most part, we have had a fraternity of rich lawyers all hyper-focused on manipulating district boundaries and collecting contributions to fund their reelections.
When you think about the long list of FAA failures in recent years, and the consistent inability of most elected officials to take decisive actions, it starts to appear as if our elected leaders actually wanted to perpetuate the failures, to create a population so desperate for impact relief, they would be easily manipulated to call their representatives and tell them to vote in favor. Thus, stacking up these problems might actually up the odds of passing the eventual proposal.
So many failures went unresolved, and virtually everywhere:
- the lack of control by local authorities to manage problems at their local airport.
- the horrific impacts related to NextGen implementations, creating new noise-ghettos.
- the many lies and misrepresentations – the outright fraud packaged under the name ‘NextGen’.
- the continued spewing of toxic lead by small planes DECADES beyond health-mandated deadlines
We have seen a few rare exceptions (they are almost always freshman representatives who perhaps have not yet lost their idealism and loyalty to true service?), but, for the most part, Congress continues to do nothing. Then, suddenly, we as citizens watch as Mr. Shuster springs to life and offers the AIRR Act. Of course, at the same time, via a media blitz, we are also being told by Mr. Shuster, by the airlines, by lobbyist ‘Airlines for America’, and by a gaggle of former FAA officials (including David Grizzle and Russ Chew) that this is a great idea. Even the controller’s union, NATCA, announced support … though all the other unions came out in strong opposition, which raises the question: what bone has been promised to NATCA for the inexplicable support?
There are many things WRONG about the AIRR Act. The main objective is clearly to insulate ATC from both Congressional oversight and public accountability/transparency, neither of which is a worthy or acceptable goal. But, for now, consider just the simple truth, that failure should never be rewarded. Passing this legislation would reward players in both the Congress and at FAA. Congress should not be in the business of giving away authority in exchange for contributions from profitable airline during a campaign year. FAA should not be functioning as a captured regulator, serving only the industry while creating more and worsening problems for the People. Both are failing, so why would any intelligent person want to reward that failure?
How about this instead: if FAA et al really want to outsource ATC, grant their proposal only after both FAA and Congress have cleaned up their acts and are performing their duties. We all deserve and demand an ACCOUNTABLE Federal Aviation Administration.