Ground Clutter

On June 10, USA Today’s online aviation news, ‘Today In The Sky,’ reported that FAA computer glitches were causing airline delays. One blurb, citing the Associated Press, said that according to an FAA spokeswoman a computer in Atlanta that processes flight plans failed. The work was rerouted to a computer in Salt Lake City, which then overloaded — “magnifying the problem.” Blessedly, I wasn’t flying that day.

Earlier that week I flew from Asheville, NC (AVL) to Phoenix (PHX), then back to Huntsville, AL (HSV). On June 10 I drove from Huntsville to Asheville. Even on the highway, we had our own problems with guvmint systems.

The guvmint designed the Interstate system in the ‘50s, during the Eisenhower Administration. In the summer of 1962 I drove extensively on that system, and it really did seem to be a marvel. I distinctly remember driving at a steady 70 mph with little slowdown for traffic. Not so today. On the June 10 trip I remember being constantly delayed by traffic and being brought to a standstill by maintenance.

The cars on the road today are greatly superior to that one I drove in 1962. They have better tires, brakes, and restraint systems. But, thanks to overcrowding and repairs, today’s cars can’t travel on today’s interstate highways as easily as we did 45 years ago.

Be it ATC, highways, or a gazillion other things, if it is run by the guvmint it hasn’t kept up. States, in desperation, are turning highways over to for-profit companies that will convert them to toll roads. Frankly, I fully expect improved service on those roads, and imagine that I will gladly pay the toll to drive on them.

Prisons are also being turned over to for-profit firms. (The results are being argued both ways, but seems to me that the results are no worse than guvmint prisons, and cost less.) Look around locally. What else is being turned over to private firms?

Guvmint airports, it seems to me, are very well run, but the last major airport built in this country was Denver, which (finally) opened more than 12 years ago in early 1995. The last before that was, believe it or not, DFW, which opened in early 1974 — more than 33 years ago.

Check it out. The guvmint hasn’t kept up, and that’s pretty much true at all levels.

Now the FAA wants more money to play catch-up.

One glory of the free market is that suppliers who don’t keep up fall by the wayside, and are replaced by those that do. We hardly even notice the process, and we don’t pay the bill. Usually, we come out better for it.

All of which brings up my usual question: Why in the world do so many want to turn over even more of our lives to you know who?

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