Good Gov, Bad Gov

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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 access—probably 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.

Comments (14)

Wow. I hope nothing historically significant ever happens around my neighborhood, lest the government determine that my house has become "Sacred Ground" and take it. (That's the National Park Service's capitalization, by the way, not mine.) Speaking of Sacred Ground, Chicago is trying to rip up a cemetery to expand O'Hare... I guess that ground isn't sacred enough. I wonder if people will grow tired of letting the government do whatever it wants before it's too late?

Posted by: Jonathan Harger | June 2, 2009 9:47 PM    Report this comment

Headline 1A: "Government Steps on Farmers to Build Memorial" Headline 1B: "Government Responds to Petition of Thousands to Build Memorial to Honor Dead."

Headline 2A: "Government Steps In to Protect Airport from Local Hotheads." Headline 2B: "Government Caters to Aviation Special Interest Group, Prevents Local Community from Reducing Airport Noise."

Apparently the tone and intent of this blog is to whine about government interference when we didn't get our way, and wonder why we can't get more government interference when we do get our way. Pretty wide open topic.

And since this is a topic that is only superficially related to aviation, I'll also wait to see how long it takes before AvWeb reins in its bloggers and reminds them that this is an aviation website and I don't care to read pro- or anti-government political dialogue on this website.

Posted by: Donald Harper | June 3, 2009 9:32 AM    Report this comment

Whether we're writing or reading about aviation, steel manufacturing or dairy farming, the government, and thus poliics, is an integral part of the discussion - it is virtually impossible to separate them.

I may not always agree with Paul (however I do agree with his assessment of the government land grab in PA) but most of the time his editorials are well thought out and well written. Keep up the good work.

Posted by: Dennis McNish | June 3, 2009 10:21 AM    Report this comment

America is about freedom, which the brave passengers of United flight 93 gave their lives for. Now the federal government wants to steal peoples land for a shrine -- how's that for ironic. The NYC monument is enough of a memorial for the whole 9/11 tragedy. We don't need or want the federal government to steal living peoples land in the name of false freedom. These are peoples' lives, money, and dreams the federal bureaucrats want to sacrifice. It would be better to protect our freedoms than to erect a monument that would forever epitomize an out of control government.

Posted by: Jim Dunn | June 3, 2009 1:07 PM    Report this comment

Donald,

The politics of freedom and government encroachment are central to our being able to continue to enjoy the freedoms we know in aviation.

I live in Virginia. Every time I talk to a flight briefer they have to ask (usually apologetically) if I'm familiar with the DC flight restrictions. Why do we have those restrictions? Does anyone believe that if they were in place on 9/11 anything would have been different? Unchecked, bureaucracies expand their reach. Unless we're willing to fight, flying in 20 years will be much more restricted than it is today.

Keith West http://www.HowItFlies.com

Posted by: Keith West | June 4, 2009 6:35 AM    Report this comment

Excellent article Paul! I agree whole heartedly.

Posted by: Andy Medley | June 4, 2009 8:16 AM    Report this comment

Excellent article Paul! I agree whole heartedly.

Posted by: Andy Medley | June 4, 2009 8:16 AM    Report this comment

Great article, Paul. I'm a Venice resident and a pilot that's enraged due to the council's waste of taxpayers money and their neglect of airport maintenance. It's incredible to me that elected officials can act so irresponsibly and get away with it.

Posted by: Bernie Sidley | June 4, 2009 10:32 AM    Report this comment

WHAT? You mean if an airport sponsor accepts FAA grant money for capital improvements, there are strings attached? Like the parochial interests can't discriminate against who's allowed to use the federally funded airport? The nerve of these FEDS! In my town there’s a plan to bring back local passenger rail service, and the people who have chosen to build houses along the tracks over the past 20 years are already organizing to stop the trains. I personally have never heard of transportation project that wasn’t opposed by someone. Usually the opposition is a special interest group consisting of people who have chosen to live along train tracks, highways, or airports. As Dennis above said, I don’t always agree with you 100%. But you were spot-on, on both counts with this one Paul. John Mininger

Posted by: John Mininger | June 4, 2009 12:19 PM    Report this comment

Well, Paul, I'm worried I will become known as a personal fan of yours, the way we seem to always agree, and this article is no exception.

The land grab in PA is Kelo V New London all over again. I wonder if anyone has the dollars it would take to give SCOTUS another chance to do the right thing (for a change).

What's really sad is that when the FAA voluntarily does the right thing, it is actually somewhat of a surprise.

Posted by: Bruce Liddel | June 4, 2009 8:46 PM    Report this comment

Paul, We keep hearing about letters from the FAA in regards to our ( I'm a tenant) airport and the city council but we get no action from them. When will they step in and force the city to action.

Posted by: David Cook | June 4, 2009 9:22 PM    Report this comment

An appropriately entitled piece, showing Good Govt v. Bad Govt. By and large, the FAA does comply with its mandate to encourage and improve aviation, as demonstrated there in Venice.

As for the land grab at Shanksville PA, that is being done to prop up the lies told about the events of 11 September. There was no crashed Boeing in that field, and anybody viewing the several videos shot from helicopters that day would come to the same conclusion. The entire Official Story is a damn lie, as there is no evidence at all to support it.

Now, future generations will be brainwashed from the past by some fancy buildings on land stolen from private citizens.

Posted by: Richard Sinnott | June 8, 2009 9:19 AM    Report this comment

OK Richard, what happened then?

Posted by: Jean-Francois Reat | June 8, 2009 12:22 PM    Report this comment

It's obviously a long story Jean-Francois, and beyond the scope of this blog, but suffice to say that the entire Official Story is a huge lie.

Every reporter there at Shanksville that day, on the ground and from the helicopters had the same thing to say--there is nothing there that suggests a Boeing just crashed there. 5 or 6 years after the fact, analysis of the Flight Data Recorder for that site contradicts the Official Story.

ALL the evidence at WTC indicates the buildings, 3 of them, were brought down by explosive demolition.

Posted by: Richard Sinnott | June 8, 2009 1:06 PM    Report this comment

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