Earth to FAA: Skip AirVenture This Year
Almost every year during AirVenture, the FAA administrator makes the obligatory slog to Wittman Field in N1, does a dog and pony and flies back to the Washington puzzle palace. In years past, this has been a bit of a love fest. In 2010, I was amused—or was it shocked?—when then-EAA president Tom Poberezny protected then-FAA administrator Randy Babbitt from penetrating questions about FAA foot dragging on the 100LL replacement non-effort.
The FAA shouldn’t expect the same treatment this year, nor does whoever bothers to fly out to AirVenture from Independence Avenue this week for the traditional show up deserve more than a chilly acknowledgement. EAA Chairman Jack Pelton, one of the straighter shooters in general aviation, hasn’t attempted to disguise his ire with the FAA for its decision to charge the association $450,000 for air traffic services for AirVenture.
In pursuing what is clearly a purely political decision, the FAA is quite plainly shaking down the very people they are supposed to be serving and supporting. As Pelton has pointed out, the agency has the line-item budget support to cover events like AirVenture but, for political reasons, it has chosen to beat up the industry with sequestration as the excuse. Moreover, it is using its regulatory authority in an abusive way by preventing organizations like EAA from using less expensive private-sector ATC services which is ultimately the way events like AirVenture may have to go. It’s really government oversight at its worst.
We’re not sure who’s going to show up to represent the FAA, but it will likely be a few senior executives who will try to make nice and explain that the AirVenture fiasco wasn’t of their doing, but was a cabinet-level decision. While this may be true, FAA execs are the public face of an agency that now appears to be actively engaging in economically undermining general aviation at every turn. Considering the rules of polite society, we shouldn’t hurl rotten tomatoes or insults at the FAA executive corps, but they are the active enablers of policies that harm general aviation. Nor should we take it out on the pink shirts in the Oshkosh tower, even though they also represent another touchpoint with the public.
So to avoid the specter of a terminal case of painful hypocrisy, wouldn’t it be better for everyone if the FAA contingent just stayed home this year? They’ve clearly shown no interest in helping so they might as well drop the façade and save the travel money. Unless, of course, they show up at Wittman Field with an industrial-strength fence mending kit and a refund check in the amount of $450,000.