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Aviation United? We Can Hope

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Something that has always made aviation a unique vocation and interest is that regardless of your place within it, there are bonds between you and other aviators that function on so many levels that there is common ground on almost every topic imaginable. Once you've intentionally put distance between yourself and terra firma, you've joined the club and you are welcome at all of its locations.

So, that's why the past couple of years have been uncomfortable, if inevitably so. Squabbles in close-knit communities happen and they tend to cloud the larger issues, especially when they're about money.

The great user fee battle was entirely about money and, while fighting about money isn't intrinsically destructive, especially when the supply seems short, it can be a tremendous distraction when things simply need to get done.

Is it possible that the airlines and the rest of aviation have buried the hatchet and are willing to work together to get these things done?

The U.S. badly needs to get working on modernizing its aviation system. From grass strips in the mountains to JFK and O'Hare, the system is creaking under the weight of its own success as truly one of the most remarkable endeavors of mankind.

But in an era where most of our cars are equipped for turn-by-turn navigation, when we communicate effortlessly in a half a dozen ways that didn't exist 20 years ago, when it's possible to track the movements of our teenagers through their cell phones, we're still flying most people where they're going using VHF radio signals as the basis for navigation.

Sure, it works but it's such a stunning anachronism in the context of what we, as pilots, and our equipment can now help us accomplish, it would be funny if it wasn't so ridiculous.

And that's why the announcement that most areas of the aviation industry have come together to lobby for $4 billion in modernization funding is welcome. Because, while we all need this stuff, the only reason we don't already have it is because we haven't been able to get together to present this united front. Politicians are loathe to commit money to any sector that can't seemingly get its own act together and that is why we don't have an FAA administrator, NextGen is treading water, you can't squeeze another plane in edgewise at half a dozen of the country's most important airports and, I suspect, why people who might otherwise enjoy being pilots are finding other things to do.

There's no doubt the wars of the past few years had to be waged. But there's also no doubt that in the "new era" that is supposed to start next Tuesday that those wars will be ancient history and those pulling the strings will want to see ideas for the future, not battle scars from the past.

Comments (1)

The "Band of Brothers" theory is a pleasant fiction. The fact is that the different segments of aviation have very different and sometimes opposing interests. In the normal times each segment is going to go it's own way and fight for as much of the pie as it can get. It's when things are going to hell in a hurricane and the barbarians are at the gate that we are able to rise above our compartmentalized goals and suddenly see the imperative as well as the value of common effort. The "new era" will last only as long as the crisis, then it's back to businees as usual. How long do you think this alliance would last if Congress were to say they would give one segment, and only one segment, everything they asked?

Posted by: Richard Montague | January 15, 2009 8:09 AM    Report this comment

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