Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Washington D.C.

I spent all afternoon on the Hill yesterday in Washington D.C..  The Arlington contingent visited the offices of Senators Cornyn and Cruz and Congressmen Barton and Veasey.  We covered several subjects from the additional funding of Handitran, to the effort to tax municipal bonds and the fair tax act.  My subject had to do with aviation.  The FAA is trying to divest itself of the responsibility to control air traffic.  (ATC)  They would like to relinquish that responsibility and give it to either a non-profit or a for profit company.  This is a bad idea on many levels, but the most important one is the safety of the traveling public.

All governments and government officials should be concerned with keeping their citizens safe, as a prime directive.  We currently move over 700 million passengers through the skies of America each year.  The FAA is charged with making that safe, and it is so effortless that we take it for granted each time we get in an aircraft.  If we shifted to private enterprise, the board of the new company would be made up of airline executives.  They’re driven by the bottom line, and answer to the company shareholders on a quarterly basis.  You can see how the paradigm shifts, and safety gets swept under the rug.  There is an argument to be made since Canada has privatized their ATC.  But Canada has 1/10th of our population.  Most of their traffic is derived from the U.S. to their border cities of Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.  There are very little interior flights nationally in Canada.  The only time that Canada is tasked with volume is when the U.S. Carriers leave for Europe and proceed across eastern Canada to get their spacing to join the NAT Track system and cross the Atlantic.  But there is no congestion and it is all done at high altitude with proper spacing.

I also discussed FY17 funding for our Contract Tower at Arlington Municipal Airport.  Contract towers control 28% of total air traffic very efficiently utilizing only 14% of ATC’s budget.  The reason that they are so good at their job, is that 70% of Contract Towers are manned by Veterans.  All trained and experienced in the armed forces.  Arlington needs positive controlled airspace because of all of our events.  We have 120 events a year in our entertainment district.  (Super Bowls, World Series, NCAA Final Four and National Championship games, etc.)  People come from all over the U.S. and land at Arlington Muni.  Our ramp looks like JFK.  I asked for funding for all 257 Contract Towers in the U.S. to the tune of $158.8 mil. and got support from every office.  These were the two biggest topics on the Hill and I was fortunate to lend a helping hand with my past expertise.   


  1. I respectfully disagree with your opinion that privatization of air traffic control would be detrimental to the traveling public, on two counts:

    1. Government cannot perform ANY task efficiently. This has been proven time after time. Without the incentive of profit, waste of monetary resources (tax dollars) proliferates, exponentially.

    2. Airline operations are concerned with safety, as the market requires. If an airline is viewed as cutting corners with passenger safety, the traveling public will seek other carriers. This is Market Economics.... Capitalism. Planes start falling from the sky, people will no longer travel with that company, and shareholder value plummets as well. Market forces are a true corrective action, and should be allowed to work, rather than quashed under the boot of bureaucratic, inefficient government regulation.

    By the way, I'm still waiting for proof that groping passengers at airports has stopped any terrorist from doing something stupid. The American public at large is still awaiting this reassurance, and after 15 years, I believe it's highly improbable the TSA will ever prove its existence is necessary, vital, or worthwhile.

  2. First off I will not entertain the comment about the TSA. It is not part of this discussion so I will let that drop. The point is about FAA control of air traffic. I respectfully disagree with your assumption that the government has done a poor job of managing air traffic in the past. The GAO report states in the second paragraph that, "the United States has the busiest, most complicated and safest air control system in the World." I agree with their assumption. As an airline captain with TWA and American for 32 years, I have been controlled by many entities all over the globe. Ours is the most intricate, and the safest of all. So maybe there is an exception to your statement in number 1.
    Your second statement is true to a point. To your point the airlines are safe so they can make a dollar. ATC is concerned with safety period. You said it yourself, "Planes start falling from the sky, people will no longer travel with that company." Ergo no money. Putting a pinstriped suit in the hen house is not the answer. You should demand safety pure and simple, without the carrot of profit.

  3. re Anonymous point #2. I trust you are willing to be one of the first victims on that first plane that falls from the sky so that I and my family can choose another airline.
    Oh,,and thanks for donating your life. We appreciate it.

  4. re Anonymous point #2.
    I would like to go on record as appreciating the first victims on that flight that falls from the sky (as you stated) so that I may select another airline. A little too late for them however.


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