Inside the Fence

Sept. 8, 1999


John Infanger, Editorial Director

September 1999

Flipping through the notes of summer, awaiting the fall aviation shopping season — a.k.a. ConventionRama.

... The like-clockwork PR machine that is AOPA recently revealed that 84 percent of new and/or student pilots had not increased their concerns about safety "at all" or only "to a small extent," in light of the JFK Jr. tragedy. Shouldn't that be a concern? Maybe, at least, they'll ask more questions?

... Perhaps you, too, after the initial shock upon hearing the news of the Miami drug busts, just gave out a long, exhaustive sigh. What now?

What a perfect cover, it seems — an airport. At this writing, some 30 employees with security clearances — even American Airlines employees — were charged with conducting a ring of cocaine smuggling at Miami International.

Read in the Chicago Tribune:
"... what prosecutors called the key finding of their entire investigation: That a bunch of amateurs were able to traffic in cocaine and outwit one of the country's largest airlines and airports because no one was watching."

Two questions: No one was watching? Should the industry be nervous?
... Also from the Trib, this cover headline: Going nowhere at O'Hare. Under it, a color photo of a mass of humanity crowded outside the international terminal. Some 6,000 passengers given two free hours of Chicago sunshine while security looked for a guy they never found. He had leaped through a checkpoint, probably late for a flight, and the mayhem ensued.

Some stats: At least 120 United flights were canceled, "scores" delayed; some 27,000 pax nationwide were affected.

If this is a new fraternity hazing thing, we don't want to go there.

Seriously, though, it's hard to chide O'Hare officials for reacting in a manner prescribed. Yet, it would appear the industry and the regulators are not taking care of the business of calming the public's fears about aviation safety. At this point, the employees and passengers are winning the award for thinking outside the box.

... Speaking of outside the box, NATA went there with a new business management seminar. It serves as the catalyst for pages of coverage in this issue.

... Herb Kelleher, head of Southwest Airlines, is being treated for prostate cancer. If you were the cancer, wouldn't you be worried?

... EAA remains the main event among airshows, but attendance this year dropped about 100,000 while fees were raised significantly. Note to EAA: There's a connection.

... Funding? Just asking.

... Rep. Bud Shuster, please pick up a white courtesy phone. Get that long-term aviation funding bill dusted off — a new Congressional session awaits.

Word is, Rep. Shuster is confident that a compromise can be reached with the Senate to attain the long-term infrastructure financing he and the industry seek. However, airlines will continue the fight against raising the PFC cap. A higher PFC, argues Shuster, gives airports more control to expand and lure new entrants.

... Headed to Washington, D.C. by January, 2000? Be sure to check out the Business Wings exhibit at the National Air & Space Museum. It does a good job of highlighting business aviation. And, hey, it's across the street from FAA headquarters.

Thanks for reading.