Inside the Fence

July 8, 2000

Inside the Fence

Recalling a few things learned at this year's AAAE camp, but first an observation or two ...

John F. Infanger, Editorial Director

July 2000

FAA Administrator Garvey is still efforting to be the siren of budget shortfalls, saying that continuing to underfund the agency's operations budget equates to rolling the dice on safety. One can only assume that Congress is still waiting for FAA to reinvent itself and make do with what it's given. Yet, a stalemate is a stalemate. Unfortunately, when it comes to airplanes and safety, dealing to a draw is not a winning proposition.

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Speaking of political games, Sen. John McCain — he of the recent and short-lived populist movement — doesn't have presidential rivals to kick around anymore. So, apparently, he's decided to vent his frustrations on Phil Boyer, president of AOPA.

Boyer doesn't like the idea of new user fees on aviation. He sees them as just another tax. In fact, the only people who don't see new user fees as just another tax appear to be those folks serving in the halls of Congress. Sen. McCain has been seeking new aviation user fees for some time, and hasn't given up.

This minor difference in philosophy has led McCain to hold up Boyer's nomination to the new FAA Manage-ment Advisory Council (part of that reinventing FAA groundswell). As I look through a stack of press releases, there's one talking of how AOPA represents 57 percent of U.S. pilots. Another talks of AOPA working with FAA and user groups to improve the airworthiness directives process. And yet another tells of AOPA's role as co-chair of an FAA runway incursion team that's trying to help eliminate airfield mishaps. To an editor sitting in the nation's heartland, the AOPA president would appear more than qualified to serve on an FAA oversight group. But then, I'm still convinced that user fee is just another way of saying tax.

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And, some outtakes from this year's AAAE show held in late May in Baltimore ...
• David Neeleman, CEO of the upstart, TV-at-every-seat airline JetBlue, says the carrier will be aggressive in the marketplace, but will continue to operate every one of its aircraft out of New York's JFK for the next three years. Like others, it is a low-cost carrier, estimating that its cost per available seat mile is around six cents — lower than that of Southwest.

JetBlue, he says, is "high tech, high touch." Web reservations, touch screen check-in, and quick turns are a few of the items responsible for lower operating costs. His advice to airport operators want to attract JetBlue service: The company's not looking for a handout, but it does want assurances that the airport is committed to growth.
• It seems that VP Al Gore offered a video presentation to the air traffic controllers convention recently. In it, he stated there was no way the contract tower program would be expanded. It is a position that's 180 degrees from one his commission held just a few years back. Politics means never having to say what you really believe.
• Hal Wight, director at Klamath Falls, OR, airport, tells of a public-private partnership that is working to attract air service to the Southern Oregon community. They have commitments from businesses to purchase one-half million dollars in tickets via a voucher program. Interesting idea.

Thanks for reading.