A failure to keep pace

March 8, 1999

A Failure To Keep Pace

By Ralph Hood

March 1999

Hoo, boy!

Ralph Hood is a Certified Speaking Professional who has addressed aviation groups throughout North America. A pilot since 1969, he's insured and sold airplanes at retail and distributor levels and taught aviation management for Southern Illinois University. He currently serves as National CFI Marketing Mentor for AOPA's Project Pilot Instructor Program.

As I write this, it has been proposed by the guvmint that airlines pay large sums to pax (that's passengers, if you're not an insider) kept on board more than two hours over and above scheduled flight time. Good goshamighty. Talk about the pot badmouthing the kettle!

Let me describe a typical — repeat typical — airline delay.

On a recent Friday, I was scheduled to leave Huntsville, AL, for Atlanta at 7 a.m. on Delta flight 1712. I prepared to be there on time. (I fly Delta alot, and I have an arrangement with them. If I am not on board when the plane is ready to leave, they have agreed to leave without me. They live up to their part of the arrangement.) I arose at 5 a.m. and drove to the airport. Evidently, Delta counter personnel had prepared also, as they were on hand to check me in.

Delta gate personnel, pilots, flight attendants, baggage handlers, and fuelers had likewise prepared, as did a 100 or so pax. We were all on time, and ready to depart at the appointed hour. Then the pilot called clearance delivery, and all that preparation came to nought. We were given a one-hour delay because of flow control.

Now folks, anyway you look at it, everybody did their job except the guvmint. The guvmint said, in effect, "Sorry, folks, we're not ready for you." And that, I tell you, is a typical airline delay.

Oh, but Ralph, you say, that was because there was too much traffic, or the weather was too bad, or etc., and so forth and so on.

Folks, all I know is that more than two decades ago the guvmint deregulated the airlines but kept control of air traffic control. Since then, the airlines have purchased more airplanes, hired more people, and otherwise adapted to the growth of the industry. Today, the airlines carry more people more places for less money with more safety than ever before.

What has the guvmint done with air traffic control during those two decades? Is it possible that services provided by the guvmint sector to the airline industry have not kept up with services provided by the greedy, for-profit sector? I am convinced the FAA has some truly professional, dedicated, hardworking people, but ...

People tell me that the world has changed in those two decades—-that nobody could have foreseen the huge upheavals that have taken place throughout the world. Well, I can only repeat myself: Delta was ready when we were. The guvmint wasn't.

I wonder who would come out ahead if Delta negotiated this deal with the guvmint: Delta pays for Delta-caused delays, and the guvmint pays for guvmint-caused delays. You reckon the guvmint would agree to that?