Monday, February 04, 2008

When Is a Shortage a Shortage ?

With too few people working too long hours, the ATCs -- men and women who direct pilots for landing and takeoff -- are forced to push the boundaries of safety daily, banking on their skills to make sure every plane and passenger leave and land in Manila just fine.”

I had you going -- right up until that part about Manila -- didn’t I? But that isn’t the best part of the story. This is:

”Working below the standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization (Icao), ATCs carry on the risky business of clearing landings and takeoffs at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) daily despite extended shifts and delayed overtime pay.

The Philippines' failure to comply with ICAO safety standards has prompted the US Federal Aviation Administration to downgrade the country's aviation safety rating to Category 2 from Category 1, or below global safety minimums.“

Whether or not you are convinced that the United States is currently suffering from a dangerous controller shortage -- there is still a question you have to ask yourself. Did anybody downgrade the FAA’s safety rating during the PATCO strike in 1981 ? Well...well...we’re the United States of America ! Nobody tells us what is safe and what isn’t. That might have been true in 1981 but it is less true today. Two words: European Union. Just ask Microsoft about the EU’s clout.

You and I know that a knock-down-drag-out fight between the U.S. and the EU about safety ratings would be unlikely. But don’t forget that the rest of the world hasn’t been real happy with our foreign policy adventures of the last five years. And in case you’ve forgotten how much traffic flies between the U.S. and Europe, keep your eyes on the top right corner of this video.

Or the top left corner. Say ! Where are all those airplanes going ? China ? Or the bottom right corner. Where are they going ? Venezuela ? Not that the rest of South America is happy with us either.

(Thanks for the idea behind this post, James.)

Don Brown
February 4, 2008

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