Nowhere is the heavy hand of government more evident than in aviation. But sometimes that's not a bad thing, actually.
First, the ugly side of government intrusion. All major aircraft crashes are painful, none more so than the crash of United Flight 93 in Somerset County, Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001. In addition to all of the horrors of that day, it can claim the additional macabre record of being the only day in history in which four airliners were lost. It's altogether fitting that we construct some kind of memorial to commemorate those who lost their lives that day.
Now comes the bumbling government to screw up a good idea. We've reported that the Interior Department is invoking eminent domain to seize land to build the memorial. I got a note from an AVweb reader wondering why we haven't expressed outrage at this. Well, here I am expressing it. I think it is an outrage on several fronts. First, the government is buying or usurping an incredible 2200 acres for this memorial, which is to include a visitor center. A visitor center? What's next? Cotton candy vendors? A corporate-sponsored sports stadium?
What ought to be happening here is a somber, dignified memorial with ready accessprobably a few hundred acres, if that. The government claims it needs the additional land to protect the memorial from commercial encroachment. Perhaps they've forgotten about the giant smoking hole in Manhattan that will eventually have its own memorial surrounded by the commercial bustle of New York. Further, the claim that eminent domain was necessary to meet a deadline of 2011 for the 10-year anniversary is equally bogus. It won't matter a bit if that deadline is met or not. It's entirely artificial.
On the other hand, you sometimes have to cheer when the federal government wades in. At my local airport, Venice Municipal in Florida, some local council members got themselves elected on an anti-airport, anti-noise platform and have been merrily trashing the airport since. As most of us know, the FAA has dedicated dollars available for routine upgrades to runways, lighting and other facilities. All towns need do is ask. The airport has a good manager well-schooled in the ways of FAA grants, but because of council resistance and incompetence, very little of it has come Venice's way. The airport has become the laughingstock of the southwest Florida aviation management community.
The city government's latest blunder is to deny permission for a local FBO to build a new hangar at the airport, reasoning that it will encourage jet traffic which this little cabal doesn't want. They've dragged their feet to the point that the FAA has taken notice and will quite likely sue the city if it doesn't move forward with the hangar approval. Dense as it is, even this council realizes that in addition to costing the city millions in lost improvement grants, it will shortly be costing hundreds of thousands more in legal fees. What a deal. A crumbling airport and thousands of taxpayer dollars wasted on lawsuits. It doesn't get much worse in local government.
So, score one for the FAA. Nothing is more distressing for aviation than having the local rubes agitate against it. Anti-noise committees are one thing, anti-aviation city councils are quite another. It's not a bad thing to have some help from the federal cavalry.