Sirens of Change

March 8, 2001

Sirens of Change

By Ralph Hood, columnist

March 2001

By the time you read this, I will have suffered my 60th birthday. (Can it be true? What happened to all of those years? Seems like just yesterday I turned 40 during the 1981 NATA convention in San Antonio. The band played Happy Birthday for me and a lovely lady asked me to dance while everybody watched. I stomped all over her feet in red-faced embarrassment.)

Things are changing, and I don’t like it. Now, it seems I have become somewhat of a curmudgeon, and there’s no pleasing a curmudgeon.
All my adult life I have bemoaned over-zealous regulation by the guvmint. The guvmint has insisted on safety at any cost, and there’s been no end to the ways in which they were willing to spend my money achieving that goal. The EPA, for example, imposes rules that cost industry gazillions of dollars per life saved. Put the same money into medical research on the complications of hangnails and you could save many more lives.
OSHA gave us a book to live by when I was in the FBO business. It was as thick as a book by Tolstoy. It included a myriad of rules demanding such things as a non-permeable surface running four inches up the bathroom walls, but the word airplane was not to be found in the entire book.
The FAA, in my not so humble opinion, has applied this same type of thinking to aviation. I still remember the time they said I could not remove the seats of a Cherokee Six in order to carry skydivers. Those seats were built to remove quickly at the push of a button, but the feds said I had to get a certified mech to do the job. I will now, lo these many years later, come clean: I ignored their dictate and did it myself. (I wouldn’t have admitted that until just recently. However, Clinton gave me a full pardon on his last day in office, just before he left for Arkansas to participate in the opening of his Presidential Library and Adult Book Store.)
Now, the feds seem hell-bent on loosening their own regs, and I gotta admit it has me worried.
We need more airports and modernized air traffic control. The system is bogged and clogged, users are mad, and the guvmint is catching much of the flack. They are behind the eight ball. All of the real solutions should have been started years ago, and now it is too late.
So, what is the guvmint to do? Well, as reported in this column, the first thing that worried me was when they started advocating cross-runway takeoffs and landings after they had been saying for decades that they weren’t safe. Now they are pushing parallel instrument approaches at SFO, although the runways are much closer together than the limit set by the same guvmint decades ago. And today, on, I read the following: "The FAA has softened the punishment for controllers when they direct planes to fly too close to one another." They are encouraging the violations of their own rules!
Good gawdamighty, folks, what’s going on? Is this the same guvmint that accuses greedy business people of endangering the public for the sake of profits? They are advocating operations they deemed unsafe decades ago when traffic was sedate by today’s standards. Is this a trend? If so, how far will it go?
Please, let’s try some other obvious steps — like peak-period pricing — before we throw the baby out with the dishwater.