Inside the Fence

April 8, 2001


By John Infanger, Editorial Director

April 2001

Is it a national transportation system when it suits our interests, but a local problem when it doesn’t?
The question comes to mind after reading recent editorials by two respected industry leaders, AOPA’s Phil Boyer and NBAA’s Jack Olcott. Boyer calls ours the "world’s finest air traffic control system." Olcott asks, "Thus is it correct to condemn the entire ATC system when problems are concentrated at just a few locations?"
Both men stress the need for more runways and/or airports at or around the 25 air carrier airports which account for some 96 percent of system delays. Few would argue the point. However, getting new runways built at Chicago O’Hare, New York LaGuardia, or San Francisco Inter-national is more fantasy than reality. SFO probably has the best chance, and that requires overcoming environmental concerns to create a landfill in the bay. In Chicago, even the powerful Mayor Daley is going to have a very difficult time ever building another runway at O’Hare.
(Elsewhere in this issue, we share excerpts from a recent Reason Foundation study that suggests the U.S. should consider the Nav Canada model now well underway. It is, at worst, interesting reading.)
The point here is this: The U.S. air traffic control system needs to be modernized, and the federal government has demonstrated an inability to get the task accomplished. It is indeed a national transportation system, and it is in the nation’s best interests to maintain and bring new technology to that system. There is also a responsibility to wisely spend taxpayers’ dollars, and we only need look to the microwave landing system experience to recognize the final answer may not come from FAA.
It serves little purpose to have major association leaders take a paro-chial attitude toward such a vital issue. An industry that presents a fragmented voice to Congress has no voice.
Unfortunately, with aviation, it may take a crisis to make modernization happen. With airplanes, crisis is defined by the words accident and fatalities.
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From the idea file ...
Checking out of the hotel near Denver International recently and looking outside at some rather dense fog, I asked the clerk if he knew of any airport delays. He didn’t.
How difficult would it be for airports to provide airport/downtown hotels with a daily email update of airport conditions?
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At a time when web-bashing is in vogue, Lorraine Sileo of PhoCus-Wright, Inc., an internet consultancy, offered attendees at the FAA Forecast Conference in Washington some interesting statistics. Sileo says that today 35 percent of Southwest Airlines’ bookings are done online, and nearly all of those on Southwest’s own website.
Herb Kelleher’s midas touch apparently applies to the internet as well. Now that he’s retiring, is it a touch he can pass along?
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Seattle suffered two earthquakes recently — one by nature and another by Boeing, which announced it will relocate its corporate headquarters. Boeing has redefined its company so often in its 85-year history, it seems moot to ponder whether this move will be successful.
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Finally, congratulations to Andy Cebula, who leaves NATA for a senior position at AOPA. We wish him well.
Thanks for reading.