Inside the Fence
By John Infanger, Editorial Director
If a French activist has a delayed flight
during a U.S. visit, will he take up the cause, rally the industry troops,
and find an answer to the delay dilemma?
José Bové is a sheep farmer who has polarized his countrymen against globalization’s imposition on French culture — in this case, French food. He and a few friends tried to dismantle a McDonald’s that was under construction down the street from his stone farmhouse. He faces charges, but he’s become a national symbol of a cause.
Reading a newspaper account of Bové’s actions spurred the thought: It’s going to take an outrageous action, an unlikely hero, to bring about real change to alter the present course to Destination Gridlock.
Unfortunately, while the cause celeb approach can bring an answer, it may not be the best answer. It may not be one industry thinks is remotely palatable, not to mention visionary.
It seems the only people who still believe FAA can continue to operate the air traffic control system and truly modernize it are in denial. There are a lot of bright people in aviation today who look at the state of air traffic affairs and ask, Why?
This is not FAA’s fault. It is more and more evident that fault has left the discussion. To the question Why? comes the answer, What?
It is time to bring leading heads of aviation and leading minds of technology together for one cause: to find an answer that first brings us to today, then points us towards tomorrow. We can invite Sen. McCain to observe. (One suspects he’d welcome the opportunity.)
The entire business of aviation is leaping forward while ATC lags behind. This is the bitter pill which our industry must swallow: If there is blame, it is ours. We talk change, but are afraid to truly change from a system with which we are comfortable.
It has been said by many; let it be written here: We have to take ATC out of the hands of FAA. Everything else is negotiable.
As some have said, industry must be able to react to change and to demand. Government and its agencies are inherently methodical — and slow.
Pilots like gadgets, but they don’t like change. It is gadgets — and a new system — that will bring us change. We are a sea of pilots afraid to ride the wave of change. An old tide, one fears, will ground us upon the shore. And a nation will ask, Why?
* * *
Speaking of crises, there is insurance. There’s more on this story on page 24, but consider the words of Pat Robinson, an aircraft sales dealer venturing into the FBO business who is the subject of this issue’s Business Profile (page 22):
"Avemco had written our insurance business for our aircraft sales company for eight to ten years, and then they got out of the business. Our insurance rates virtually tripled.
"The dollars are bad enough, but the pilot requirements are what really hurt us. In the aircraft sales business, historically, most dealers with reasonable volume have had pretty flexible insurance policies. And now, a guy can come here and rent an airplane with 50 hours total time in our rental business, but he can’t deliver an airplane without having 700 to 800 hours total time.
"It’s impossible to find insurance right now that’s affordable and flexible."
Thanks for reading.