Monday, November 05, 2007

FAA History Lesson -- November 5



From the FAA Historical Chronology, 1926-1996...

”Nov 5, 1962: FAA announced acceptance of a design concept for a standard air traffic control tower. Prepared by the New York architectural firm I. M. Pei and Associates, the concept featured a free-standing tower providing greater visibility from the cab, improved space for operating radio and radar equipment, and a better environment for air traffic control personnel. Acceptance of the Pei design was recommended by FAA engineers and the agency's Design Advisory Committee, a group of citizens prominent in the fields of architecture or design. (See Dec 14, 1964.) “

Those were the days. I don’t remember them of course. It was almost 20 years before I hired on with the FAA and besides, I worked in a Center my entire career. I visited a lot of Towers but I never worked in one.

In that it was so long ago (to some anyway), I’m guessing many of you haven’t heard of I.M. Pei. He was one of the most famous architects in the world. Between that fact and this statement, “a better environment for air traffic control personnel”, I was struck by the contrast between then and now.

10/24/2007
AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLERS AT KANSAS CITY INTERNATIONAL TOWER WORRY ABOUT MOLD


10/10/2007
A BRUTALLY STRESSFUL WORKING ENVIRONMENT TURNS UNHEALTHFUL: THE MOLD-INFESTED SAGA OF THE NATION'S BUSIEST FAA FACILITY


09/14/2007
DETROIT METRO TOWER AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLERS FILE LAWSUIT ALLEGING IMPROPER MOLD REMOVAL AND HEALTH EFFECTS


But it wasn’t just that entry that made me notice the difference. There were more things happening on this date in the FAA’s history.

From the FAA Historical Chronology, 1926-1996...

”Nov 5, 1966: A two-day exercise designated Metro Air Support '66 began as a demonstration of aviation's ability to provide emergency access and logistic support to a city center. The first major operation of its kind, it involved more than 200 airplanes, helicopters, and Short Takeoff and Landing (STOL) aircraft.

FAA was a key participant in planning the exercise, and a number of airlines cooperated by flying supplies from distant points to airports in the New York City vicinity. The key operation involved airlifting supplies from the fringes of the city to its center, which was accomplished by helicopters and STOL aircraft. The exercise had its headquarters at a pier on the Hudson River, and one of its objectives was to encourage the development of waterfront locations for STOL ground facilities. (See Apr 1966 and Jun 30, 1968.) “


Be honest, did you think of Hurricane Katrina too ? Do you remember how the New Orleans airport looked like the world’s largest heliport and that the air traffic controllers made it work without the benefit of “a two-day exercise” or any other kind of training ? I bet every air traffic controller in the country thought of it.



It’s the difference between being on the inside of government and being on the outside. Even those that are too young to remember can recognize the difference. There was once a time in this country when our leaders actually tried to make the government work. It’s incredibly difficult work -- making government work -- but there have been instances in our past where we were successful. With good leadership, the government actually made the lives of our citizens better. It was done by people committed to their jobs and led by people that believed in the power of the government to improve their country.

Compare that to the current Administration. Compare that to this famous statement by President Bush’s personal hero and the icon of the Republican right wing:

“Government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem."

History provides us with the clarity of hindsight. In the future -- when the next disaster strikes -- who do you want to see riding over the hill to save the day ? The 7th Cavalry or Blackwater ? You’d better hope it’s the Cavalry. They’re here to protect you. Blackwater is there to protect whoever pays them. There’s a big difference. Ask the Iraqis.

Don Brown
November 5, 2007

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