Monday, June 30, 2008

How About Now ?

There was an interesting headline awaiting me this morning...

Air traffic controllers stretched to breaking point: union

Borrrring ! Seriously. How many times can I type it -- how many times can you read it -- before you become immune to it ?

”Airservices Australia is the government-owned corporation that provides air traffic control across the country.

Over the weekend just five sick staff members was all it took to throw the organisation into chaos.

When replacement controllers could not be found, the company had to stop offering its services across southern Queensland, northern New South Wales and Cape York. “

Australia ? What’s this ? I thought the headline was from America. You’re telling me it’s from Australia ? But I thought Australia had it all figured out when it came to air traffic control. I could swear I read that somewhere.

”He added, "There is a mismatch between the needs of what air traffic control is today and the constraints of being part of government bureaucracy."

Twenty-seven nations have privatized their air traffic control systems, he said, among them Germany, Switzerland, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, as well as Great Britain. “

“He” would be Robert Poole of The Reason Foundation and that quote was from the June 11, 2002 issue of The San Francisco Chronicle. I’ll provide several clips from the article but I encourage you to read the whole thing and refresh your memory.

Bush hints at private controllers
New order changes Clinton air traffic plan

”President Bush has taken the first step toward possibly privatizing air traffic control services, a move that delivers on a campaign theme of injecting a business sense into government work but an initiative that infuriates labor leaders.

He made the overture in a little-noticed executive order in which he stripped air traffic control of its "inherently governmental" designation, opening the door to privatization. “

”Labor leaders trace Bush's embrace of air traffic control privatization to the Reason Foundation, a Los Angeles think tank that endorses limited government and whose transportation specialist, Robert Poole Jr., was a Bush campaign adviser and present during the White House transition. “

”John Carr, president of the controllers union, said the timing of the Bush order is particularly surprising, coming so soon after the tragedies of Sept. 11, when air traffic controllers played vital roles for maintaining public safety. “

”Phil Boyer, the president of another aviation union, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, said, "We're absolutely flabbergasted that the administration thinks that aviation security and safety aren't a government function. This administration's position is particularly incomprehensible at a time when the government is taking airport security functions away from private industry and consolidating homeland security into a huge new department." “

Most of my readers will recognize John Carr from his blog, The Main Bang. Most also know that AOPA isn’t a union but an association.

Let’s review. The Bush Administration came in with a plan to privatize air traffic control (and anything else they could get away with.) They got that plan from Robert Poole at The Reason Foundation. The events of September 11th put a kink in that plan when it was shown in spectacular fashion that air traffic control is about public safety and national security. The failed private security system at airports was scrapped and taken over by the government and thrown in with a dozen other agencies to create the Department of Homeland Security. Pause to remember -- the Bush Administration was against Homeland Security before they were for it. Do you remember the sticking point ? That’s right, unions. The Bush Administration wouldn’t support the idea until Congress agreed to strip all the workers of their collective bargaining rights.

Are you noticing a pattern here ? Let me prove it to you. I had a hunch -- nothing else, just a hunch -- to check out The National Treasury Employees Union’s web site. Today’s issues, right off the front page:

”“Under this administration,” President Kelley said, “the army of federal contractors has grown considerably, as agencies find themselves under pressure to put a variety of jobs—many of which previously have been considered inherently governmental—up for bid to the private sector.” “

What really gets me about it all -- what I find so breathtaking -- is what my mother always referred to as “the unmitigated gall” of these people. Go back through those quotes above if you need to verify this. Robert Poole, of The Reason Foundation, on or before June 11, 2002, was holding up the air traffic control systems of Australia and Switzerland as a model for the United States of America. Not a month later, on July 1, 2002, two commercial aircraft being handled by Switzerland’s air traffic control system collided over Uberlingen. Today, Australia’s air traffic control system is in such disarray that 5 sick controllers can cause large parts of it to collapse. That’s the kind of system we want. Not.

Last minute addition

A sound clip of an interview with Dick Smith, former chairman of Australia’s Civil Aviation Authority and Civil Aviation Safety Authority, is available at this link. It’s very interesting.

Don Brown
June 30, 2008

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