More NextGen Spin, this Time by a NYC-area Aviation Lobbyist

Another day, another article, and yet another provable example of an unaccountable authority offering more spin to sucker the larger public. This time, the spin is offered by the Global Gateway Alliance and published by Crain’s:

20150303.. 'Worst of the worst - City's airports are dead last in flight delays' (R.Goldensohn, CrainsNewYork.com, 1p)

(click on image to view original article at Crain’s New York Business)

Yes, the NYC area has aviation delays, but the cause is not at all what the lobbyist claims. There are two lies (highlighted above) that pop out from Mr. Sigmund’s statements to yet another happy-to-publish reporter:

  1. Sigmund says, “Passengers have better GPS on the phone in their pocket than most every pilot is using on the planes flying in and out of New York-New Jersey airports…”; and
  2. Sigmund says, “They are also delayed because they use an outdated World War II-era radar system, leading to a constant traffic jam in the sky.”

Bunk on both counts.

Nonetheless, these are the core lies of the current ‘collaboration’ by Av-Gov Complex players, seeking more money wasted on NextGen. These lies are propagated not just by Mr. Stephen Sigmund (the executive director of Global Gateway Alliance) and other pro-aviation lobbyists, but also by FAA officials, union officials (NATCA, in the case of air traffic control) and elected officials (congressional comments last month by John Mica and Bill Shuster are two recent examples).

The fact is, FAA has spent tens of billions upgrading the computers that allow us to brag about what is indisputably an incredibly safe ATC system. But people like Sigmund have no idea what they are saying, when they repeat the spin mantra. Those ‘World War II’ radars used vacuum tubes and showed only tentative blips; they were operated by controllers trying to interpret static-prone crackling transmissions. The pilots sending those often unreadable radio transmissions had no onboard technologies to see hazards such as other flights or weather or even granite. The lack of technology suggested when using the phrase ‘outdated World War II-era radar system’ was corrected decades ago. And, further, all of this technology has been upgraded every few years for the past six decades … easily more than a dozen iterations of technological improvement. Not just to faster integrated circuitry and color presentations and digital processing, but also to include a robust array of automation and system redundancies (one of many great examples: ‘conflict detection and alert’ that aids controllers when they get bored and lose focus).

Frankly, today’s flight management systems and radars are so far evolved that the role of the air traffic controller has been largely reduced to sitting and monitoring, all while collecting some of the highest pay rates in the federal government. Ten years ago, NATCA was vehemently opposed to NextGen, because they saw it as attacking job security. So, why does NATCA support NextGen now? Because FAA threw them a bone: “…collaborate with us (agreeing not to oppose NextGen) and we will help you become privatized, so the current controllers can rise above the congressionally-imposed pay limit…” (currently capped at $174,000 per year, earned by thousands of FAA managers as well as controllers at the busiest facilities).

Enough is enough. This pattern of self-serving spin by aviation interests (FAA, Congress, lobbyists and even NATCA) must end. We need effective air service IN BALANCE with local community quality-of-life. We can have the best for all; we just need FAA to start doing the job expected by Congress and the Public.


See also:
  • Keep noise down, efficiency up at Queens airports – a letter to editor in the Times Ledger, by Sharon Pinkerton at lobby group Airlines for America; same date, and same ‘collaborated’ talking points as stated by Mr. Sigmund. (3/3/2016)
  • Privatization Plan Holds Promise but Gives Big Carriers Too Much Clout – a fairly moderate opinion piece, but still using the same ‘WWII technology’ talking point. One line sets a high bar: “…if a spinoff could improve the system without costing passengers more or silencing the public’s voice in air traffic control, it would be worth doing.” Yes, that would be worth doing, but with the ongoing set of self-serving players, those costs are inevitable – indeed, demonstrable at places like Long Island and Phoenix.