The Boringness of Bones

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Infrastructure has been getting a lot of talk lately, as President Obama looks for a way to get a jobs bill funded -- in fact, just last week he gave a speech about it in Washington. It's not just our roads and bridges that are neglected. "Our air traffic congestion is the worst in the world," he said. Every year, Europe invests twice as much as we do in infrastructure. That can't be good for our economy in the long run.

It's easy to look around and see how we depend on infrastructure every day -- not just roads and airports, but all the stuff we rely on as pilots -- air traffic control, weather data, navigation aids. It's also easy to take these things for granted and not think much about them. They've just always been there, humming along in the background, and it's natural to expect that will always be the case.

In a way that might make sense, in that each of us only has so much attention and energy, and we can't all keep track of everything that's going on all the time, even if we know it might have some impact on us. But luckily, there are people who take on that job for us -- the aviation advocacy groups.

It's equally easy to overlook the work done by these advocates, much of it behind the scenes, in the back rooms of D.C. where few of us care to tread. Here at AVweb, we report frequently on their battles -- working to get funding for ATC upgrades, or protect the rights of pilots, or watch out that GPS signals don't get stomped on. But most pilots probably don't think too much about these things, just as we don't think much about how our roads get plowed or how the bridges get painted.

I know when I was a student pilot I was eager to join the GA groups, just because it was something exclusive to real pilots. I didn't think much about where my dues actually went. Most members of GA groups today I bet think more about getting a magazine, or a discount, or joining a local chapter, than they think about supporting advocates in Washington who'll watch out for our infrastructure.

It's worth keeping in mind that a chunk of those dues go to pay the salaries of folks who've taken on the dirty job of making sure the sausages keep getting made, so the rest of us don't have to think about it. In a way, they are part of the infrastructure of GA, the same way airports and ATC are. It's easy to take those advocates for granted -- as long as they don't go away.

Comments (7)

"Our air traffic congestion is the worst in the world," he said. Every year, Europe invests twice as much as we do in infrastructure"

Dear Mr. President. Air traffic is lighter in Europe because Europe taxes private planes OUT OF THE SKY. Europe is also well known for adding complexities(cost) to their infrastructure.

If you want nice facilities without the hassle of private planes, then go to Europe. Our country was born with a cost-effective attitude and the idea that citizen flight is a great thing. Aviation Advocacy Groups are just trying to keep us from becoming like Europe...

Posted by: Mark Fraser | November 9, 2011 7:12 AM    Report this comment

It is a sad fact that userfees are always going to be on the table. Our previous president refrused to sign ANY FAA reauthorization without userfees included. For all those who dont know, he was a REPUBLICAN. Congress, thanks to help from both sides of the aisle, kicked the "can" down the road with a series of extensions in hopes that the new president would not share that same desire. Unfortunately that is not the case. This debate is neither republican nor democratic, so lets drop politics from it and get down to business. If we do not continue to come together and defend our position, we will loose this fight. If we dont lose it during this administration, we will lose it in the next, unless we can show people how they benefit from this system, and why things shouldnt change.

Posted by: rob haschat | November 9, 2011 10:29 AM    Report this comment

Well said Robert.

Posted by: STEPHEN EGOLF | November 10, 2011 6:54 AM    Report this comment

Air traffic is lighter in Europe because Europe taxes private planes OUT OF THE SKY = SO VERY TRUE !!! - In Germany they pay $10.- for Autogas and $15,- for AVgas (its $20,- in Norway!)per Gallon! A C172 pays $14,- landing fee on Airports with no services, at good airports with services the fee may be $75 or even 150,-. Obama wants the same insanity here...and the NEXTGEN ADS-B etc system is destined and planned to wipe GA out, by equipment cost and by making airspace fee structures and enforcement possible. It will be ugly..... But most of GA is still not willing to act... Regards,

Posted by: Lars Gleitsmann | November 10, 2011 12:04 PM    Report this comment

Here! Here! Well-said, Robert! Mary Grady,...so, those "behind the scenes, in the back rooms" wheeling/dealing, doesn't bother you? I'm wondering what percentage of "advocacy" groups are actually made up of commercially-funded lobby-ists representing the folks "too big to fail" and too rich to tax.

Posted by: George Horn | November 10, 2011 12:07 PM    Report this comment

Under any condition, uncluding with advocacy groups, I agree with the intended theme of encouraging gratitude for the bigger picture of those working to promote and preserve aviation infastructure, whether in D.C. or locally. But I disagree that 'most pilots probably don't think too much about these things'- quite the opposite I've found is true.

Whether the 'behind the scenes, in the back rooms' are in D.C. or locally at one's community in hangars or 'bone' dry board meetings, the suggested appreciation and gratitude should not be limited to just one area. As George alluded to, it's vitally important that aviation class distinctions are not separated by the power and influence of money. In that light I support the local involvement by pilots equally to Washington based lobbyists, while hoping those in Washington can fight the good fight for all aviation groups. Aviation infastructure is for all, but we're in a real fight for equanimity nowadays.

Posted by: David Miller | November 10, 2011 1:02 PM    Report this comment

With GPS and the automation in the system today, I assume that we don't need near the "infrastructure" in Aviation that we had in the 50's to the 90's. When was the last time you actually visited a Flight Service Station, used VOR and ADF as primary navigation, or even used an FAA outlet for inflight weather?

I thinks the sentiment is that we need LESS infrastructure from the FAA. We can start with the Medical branch and the new make-work Registration branch. Just a thought.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | November 10, 2011 2:51 PM    Report this comment

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