Inside the Fence

March 8, 1999


John Infanger, Editorial Director

March 1999

John Infanger, Editorial Director

While attending a recent legislative conference and during subsequent interviews for this issue's cover story on funding, one thing became quite evident: There are many in aviation and Washington circles who fear the aviation system is going to have to first slam into a brick wall before any serious long-term reform becomes reality.

The current debate, as presented in our Cover Story, centers around two-year or five-year authorization and appropriation for FAA and the U.S. aviation system. But is it real reform?

It is indeed a sad state of affairs when we see a plan that calls for more than six months or one year of system funding as a significant achievement.

One of the more salient points during the discussions for this story came from AAAE president Chip Barclay, who observes ...

"Are we going to wait for the crisis to appear and be visible to everyone, not just those of us in the business? What I'm worried about is, at the point where the public and everybody recognizes it and sees it, they're going to be looking back at people like me and others in the business and saying, ’Where were you on your stewardship of this system? What have you been doing? This looks like neglect to us.'

"And I think a lot of us are going to be guilty of that accusation unless we figure out the way to be articulate and persuasive enough and to compromise enough with our partners in the industry and get on with fixing the problems before we have some event drive the solution for us.

"It's not just us; it's people in government who are stewards of the system; people on the Hill that have jurisdiction issues that they protect in this system. It's the whole mix of industry and government that makes the system work."

Also surfacing during these discussions was the point that merely taking the Aviation Trust Fund "off budget" is not the end-all solution many perceive it to be. As Barclay points out, "Even a Trust Fund off budget would still be appropriated by an appropriations committee."

Sen. John McCain, a leader in the aviation debate, calls such a move irresponsible government, and cautions industry that with it will come elimination of a general fund contribution to the aviation system and possibly even higher overall fees.

From this seat, it seems too many people see the Trust Fund debate as the final solution to system funding and GPS implementation as the panacea for ATC. One is probably unrealistic; the other unproven. Mean-while, we're forced to get excited about two versus five years. Where's the reform? Hello, gridlock.

* * *

On the FBO acquisition front, the word from Signature Flight Support officials was they hoped to complete the acquisition of the AMR Combs chain by March. As of press time, negotiations and FTC review were pending.

And, finally, in an article we ran on the Millington (TN) Municipal Airport (Nov./Dec. ’98) in which it was stated, "Currently, Memphis has no designated reliever..." Well, Lynda Avery, operations manager at West Memphis Municipal Airport, points out that her airport has been a designated Memphis reliever since the mid-1970s and that it has had an ILS since 1993. Sorry for the error.

As always, thanks for reading.