Friday, January 30, 2009

Hello, FAA ? The President is Calling

Wouldn’t you love to be a fly on the wall at the FAA’s Headquarters today ?

"I do not view the labor movement as part of the problem. To me, it's part of the solution," he said. "You cannot have a strong middle class without a strong labor movement."

That is a quote from our new President, Barack Obama.

But wait, there’s more.

“Welcome back to the White House.”

That was our new Vice-president, Joe Biden, talking to a group of labor leaders.

Don Brown
January 30, 2009

Short and Simple

Things I read or heard yesterday:

Joseph Stiglitz is the world’s leading economist. I wanted to see what he had to say about it all so I went to GoogleNews and found this from AP.

”"There's a tremendous arrogance about the whole process," Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz told The Associated Press. The top bankers "think that it just happened, that it was nobody's fault. But they should feel sorry."

Meanwhile, its primarily midlevel banking officials who are now getting the boot.

Stiglitz said they aren't to blame. "The senior people — the ones who went to Congress and lobbied for less regulation — they should take responsibility," he said. “

Stephen Roach, of Morgan Stanley - Asia, could serve as Mr. Stiglitz's poster boy in this video from BBC World News America in which he blames everyone involved in the process while dodging the question asked about the “shameful” bonuses being paid out by the rescued banks.

And finally, Stephen Colbert has a few words for the Republicans that voted against the stimulus package -- which includes every single Republican in the House.

”Put no money where your mouth is. Refuse to accept a single penny of the $800 billion dollars for your Congressional District. “

By the way, I hope you read the very last line in that first AP article. I have to apologize to Mr. Forbes. Until I read it, I always thought he was pretty clueless. I see now that he has at least one clue.

”Billionaire and former Republican presidential candidate Steve Forbes said those responsible for the crisis will soon be sorry, even if they don't say it here in the Swiss Alps.

"I think Davos is for problem-solving," he said. "The heartfelt apologies will come when some individuals are brought before a court of law." “

Don Brown
January 30, 2009

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Just Making Sure

Robert Reich’s blog is on my list of blogs but I wanted to make sure you caught this one.

Why We Need Stronger Unions, and How to Get Them

”At the center of this virtuous circle were unions. In 1955, more than a third of working Americans belonged to one. Unions gave them the bargaining leverage they needed to get the paychecks that kept the economy going. So many Americans were unionized that wage agreements spilled over to nonunionized workplaces as well. Employers knew they had to match union wages to compete for workers and to recruit the best ones. “

It’s just another reason to love the little big man. A towering intellect with the heart to match it.

From Wikipedia:

”In 2008, Time Magazine named him one of the Ten Most Successful Cabinet Members of the century, and the Wall Street Journal placed him among America's Top Ten Business Thinkers.”

“He later joined the administration as Secretary of Labor. During his tenure, he implemented the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), successfully promoted increasing the minimum wage, successfully lobbied to pass the Pension Protection Act and the School-to-Work Jobs Act, and launched a number of job training programs. At the same time, he lobbied Clinton to address bigger societal issues, and pushed for improvement of conditions for those in poverty.”

By the way, I highly recommend Mr. Reich’s book Supercapitalism. I can’t believe I didn’t write a review of it already. But after searching my blog (three times), I can’t seem to find it. It’s tough getting old and forgetful.

Don Brown
January 29, 2009


Be sure to run over to The FAA Follies for your latest ERAM update.

I probably won’t hear much more about it until I get to CFS. That is Communicating for Safety and this will serve as your official reminder to sign up for the conference.

Somebody please tell me that ZTL, ZME, ZFW, ZAB and ZLA aren’t getting ERAM before March. I already hate flying enough.

Don Brown
January 28, 2009

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

It Has Started

Pay attention. This is what awaits if we don’t get our act together.

Global Financial Crisis Fells Iceland Government

”As personal savings have been wiped out and joblessness has soared, Icelanders -- once among the world's wealthiest people -- have taken to the streets in protest, banging pots and pans and throwing eggs and toilet paper at Haarde and other parliamentary leaders.

Protests have mounted throughout Europe, where the political backlash to the crisis is growing. In Ireland, Britain, Spain and other countries where bankruptcies and home foreclosures are rising, polls show that approval ratings of leaders are sinking. In Eastern Europe and Greece, where there is less of a government safety net, protesters have spilled onto the streets by the thousands. “

Just to add a little perspective, I found this line enlightening:

”In recent days, protests intensified as no leader took responsibility for the crash, prompting police to use tear gas for the first time in half a century. “ (In Iceland)

It sounds as if Icelanders are a lot more peaceful than Americans. There probably isn’t a State in America that hasn’t broken out the tear gas in 50 years. Imagine if American’s savings were “wiped out” and “joblessness soared.”

Companies cut 76,000 jobs in a day

It’s time to wake up folks. I don’t care what your politics are, we’ve got to do something and we’ve got to do it fast. Sitting pat isn’t going to solve anything. I don’t think tax cuts will either. Think about it -- would you spend any tax refund lightly if you were worried about losing your job ? Or would you sock it away for that rainy day that is coming ? Besides, we did that last year. It doesn’t seem to have worked does it ?

You might want to read up on the Works Progress Administration.

”Headed by Harry Hopkins, the WPA provided jobs and income to the unemployed during the Great Depression in the United States. Between 1935 and 1943 the WPA provided almost 8 million jobs. The program built many public buildings, projects and roads and operated large arts, drama, media and literacy projects. It fed children and redistributed food, clothing and housing. Almost every community in America has a park, bridge or school constructed by the agency. Expenditures from 1936 to 1939 totaled nearly $7 billion. “

That is what the current stimulus plan that is being debated is supposed to do for us -- before we reach 25% unemployment and our economy, currency and world collapses.

Don Brown
January 27, 2009

Bigger Than Ourselves

David Brooks and I don’t see eye-to-eye on much. He’s a columnist for The New York Times but he’s a little too conservative for my tastes. He wrote a great column yesterday. If you would, take the time to read it now. I’ll wait.

What Life Asks of Us

”The rules of a profession or an institution are not like traffic regulations. They are deeply woven into the identity of the people who practice them. A teacher’s relationship to the craft of teaching, an athlete’s relationship to her sport, a farmer’s relation to her land is not an individual choice that can be easily reversed when psychic losses exceed psychic profits. Her social function defines who she is. The connection is more like a covenant. There will be many long periods when you put more into your institutions than you get out. “

If you read that column -- and it strikes chord with you -- perhaps you can understand the hatred controllers feel for the current FAA management. To meet the demands of their profession, controllers change everything. We change the way we think, the way we talk, the way we write, spell, type, the way we sleep -- everything. Controllers try to spell Nashville with a “B” -- BNA. They’ll trip up and end a phone conversation with their operating initials -- “Alpha Bravo” -- even when talking to their wives. The profession demands habitual perfection.

The FAA’s management demands that perfection but does not respect it. The FAA’s leaders don’t demand anything close to that same perfection of themselves and they have destroyed the profession, not once, but twice.

Make no mistake about it, the wounds the profession of Air Traffic Controller has suffered in these last 877 days are every bit as grievous as the wounds suffered in the PATCO strike in 1981. I’m not speaking of the individuals (as deep as those wounds are) -- I’m speaking of the profession.

There is a lot of lip service being paid to controllers at the moment. Transportation Secretary LaHood says that making peace with the controllers will be a priority. Public perception being what it is, I’m sure most people will be focusing on money. That is unavoidable (money is important) but someone needs to focus on the profession. That somebody won’t be FAA management. At least not the current management. They don’t respect the profession. They keep trying to destroy it.

”Lack of institutional awareness has bred cynicism and undermined habits of behavior “

”...and the result was not liberation but self-destruction.“

Don Brown
January 27, 2009

NextGen This

We keep trying to tell you...this stuff isn’t as easy as the technology salesmen would have you believe.

Airbus A380 is a mixed blessing for LAX

”Every time Qantas lands one of its giant Airbus A380s at LAX, parts of the nation's fourth-busiest airport come to a halt.“

I’ll let the reporter point out the numerous problems with the ground operations (it’s not my forte) but let me draw your attention to this little “gotcha”.

”If an A380 flies into or out of the airport, aircraft behind it must maintain a longer distance because of strong wake turbulence, swirling air that can cause a trailing plane to go out of control. Heavy jets like a 747 must stay at least six miles away, while light planes must maintain a distance of 10 miles. “

We’ve been over this before. Several times. Remember this ?

”If you see a comparison in the press between traffic at Kennedy (JFK) and LaGuardia (LGA), for instance, armed with the knowledge that JFK has many, many more “heavy” aircraft than LGA, you will understand that LGA can handle more airplanes per runway than JFK can. Most of LGA’s arrivals only need three miles of spacing while many of JFK’s will have to be spaced five miles apart. “

Now, with the massive A380, we need a 10 mile gap on the final to prevent a wake turbulence accident. This impressive technological advancement has -- ironically -- given us a diminished runway capacity. NextGen that.

Shall I say it again ?

”Now keep in mind, the FAA’s whole rationale for spending $20-50 billion on NextGen is that by running airplanes closer together we can increase the capacity of the system. I still say it won’t matter because I believe the limiting factor is the runways. “

As an aside, does anyone besides me see a parallel in the Obama Administration’s email troubles ? Technology is great. You and I are using it right this second and it is wonderful, marvelous and magnificent. But in air traffic control, it has to work. You can’t tell an airliner full of people, “Turn twenty degrees left, vectors traffic” and have a screen pop up that says “404” or “We encountered a processing error. Please try again in a few minutes.” These are just annoyances that we tolerate in our daily lives because of the marvelous benefits we enjoy from a technology that works most of the time. “Most of the time” isn’t good enough for air traffic control. It isn’t good enough for the White House either. But no one is dying because of it.

Don Brown
January 27, 2009

Monday, January 26, 2009

Hearts and Wallets

The Public Debate seems to be headed towards a climax rather rapidly. I don’t know if it is Fate or clever politics. Whichever it is, no one should doubt the stakes. We -- all of us, the entire world -- are “all in”.

If you watched Fareed Zakaria this weekend (as I suggest you do every weekend) you saw him open his show with the remark about our economy “teetering” on the edge. Mr. Zakaria is not an economist. He’s just really smart and talks to others that are too. Remember this from a post last week ?

NIALL FERGUSON, HARVARD UNIVERSITY AND AUTHOR, "THE ASCENT OF MONEY": We are now in a financial crisis that bears comparison with the Great Depression. Nobody should have any doubt about that.

Unemployment is currently 7.2%. Most projections expect it to reach 10%. During the Depression, unemployment hit 25%. That shouldn’t provide much comfort. The tipping point -- the point that seems to scare the experts -- is somewhere around 10% unemployment. I suspect that the various people doing these calculations know what they mean and can’t bear the thought of projecting 12% or 15% unemployment -- knowing what the consequences of those projections would mean.

And unemployment leads us to the central debate -- What do we do now ? What kind of stimulus do we provide to the country ? The two camps are divided into:

(1) Using government spending to create jobs.

(2) Providing tax cuts to spur economic growth (through consumption.)

In my mind, it’s the same debate we’ve been having. The tax cut side (the Republicans) have been winning the debate for 30 years. It has provided us with a crushing national debt, a culture of greed and a near Depression. I’m ready for something new and I believe the election of President Obama means the rest of the country is ready too. The Republican Party (of course) doesn’t see it that way.

President Obama made his remark about Rush Limbaugh last Friday. It turns out that Mr. Limbaugh and his ilk had been misrepresenting comments made by Robert Reich about a stimulus plan. Speaking of Mr. Reich, you’ll see his blog listed among my favorite links on the left side of the page. Today’s should read:

An Open Letter to Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Michelle Malkin

I believe the fact that I have Mr. Reich listed and I don’t have any links to Mr. Limbaugh says all I need to say about that. And as to Mr. Hannity, I’ve already told you how I feel about him.

In addition to Mr. Reich, I have Paul Krugman’s blog listed. As my readers know, Mr. Krugman is a columnist for The New York Times. He weighs in on the larger argument with his column today also.

Bad Faith Economics

”Conservatives really, really don’t want to see a second New Deal, and they certainly don’t want to see government activism vindicated. So they are reaching for any stick they can find with which to beat proposals for increased government spending.

Some of these arguments are obvious cheap shots. “

You should read the whole piece. It’s a good, simple explanation of the choices we face with the economy. As an additional teaser, Mr. Krugman mentions air traffic control.

The Public Debate is in full swing. I believe it is obvious where I stand. I, like everyone else that participates, am trying to win hearts and minds. You should realize that your wallet is at stake too. Again, don’t forget the history of the last Depression. There was world-wide turmoil. From the crime wave epitomized by Bonnie and Clyde to World War II -- economic troubles led to social troubles. The decisions being made today are monumental. It is critical that we make the wisest possible ones.

I believe Rush Limbaugh is nothing more than a loathsome demagogue. Unfortunately, he is a very talented one. Still, with the fate of the world hanging in the balance, it’s hard to believe anyone would take him seriously.

Scary times.

Don Brown
January 26, 2009

Sunday, January 25, 2009

On Board Air Force One

There’s a new series starting tonight on The National Geographic Channel. I thought a number of my readers might like to watch it. There is (of course) a page of promotional videos on line. This link should lead you to a video of Marine One visiting New York.

No matter how many times it is said, there is always some confusion over the designation of Air Force One (or Marine One.) Air Force One isn’t an airplane (or any number of aircraft) available to the President. “Air Force One” is a call sign. If the President decided to take a joy ride on an F-15, it would become “Air Force One”. When President Bush took his flight out to the aircraft carrier, the Navy plane he was in became “Navy One”.

Back in the old days, “Air Force One” was printed on the flight progress strips as “A1”. “A” being the designator for “Air Force”. I always thought of steak sauce when I saw it. Things have since changed.

When the ex-President Bush left the Capitol Building after the inauguration, some news outfit said the flight was using the call sign “Executive One”. They were incorrect. The call sign “Executive One” is used when the President is on board a private (civil) aircraft. If the ex-President is aboard a Marine aircraft that aircraft has a Marine call sign -- like “Marine Four Five Six”. Seeing as it was the Presidential helicopter unit that was flying the ex-President -- and their call sign is “Nighthawk” -- the flight’s call sign was probably something like “Nighthawk Three”.

(If you’ll listen closely, the very first word in the very first radio transmission on the video is “Nighthawk”.)

It’s all in “the Book” -- the 7110.65.


Use the full identification in reply to aircraft with similar sounding identifications. For other aircraft, the same identification may be used in reply that the pilot used in his/her initial callup except use the correct identification after communications have been established. Identify aircraft as follows:

7. Presidential aircraft and Presidential family aircraft:

(a) When the President is aboard a military aircraft, state the name of the military service, followed by the word "One."

"Air Force One."
"Army One."
"Marine One."

(b) When the President is aboard a civil aircraft, state the words "Executive One."

(c) When a member of the President's family is aboard any aircraft, if the U.S. Secret Service or the White House Staff determines it is necessary, state the words "Executive One Foxtrot."

Don Brown
January 25, 2008

Saturday, January 24, 2009

I Can’t Help Myself

Pardon me, but this is the best headline I’ve seen in 8 years.

Obama: Quit Listening to Rush Limbaugh if You Want to Get Things Done

Sound advice. For everyone.

Don Brown
January 24, 2009

Fareed Fan

If I wasn’t already a fan of Fareed Zakaria’s before I read his book -- The Post-American World -- I would be one now. He covers all the bases for making a great book. It’s interesting, enlightening and a joy to read.

I’m sure millions of words have been spilled, without effect, trying to describe the magic behind what makes a book great. There’s no sense in it. It is either is or it isn’t. And it’s just an opinion anyway. In my opinion, The Post-American World is a great book.

Mr. Zakaria’s ability to critically analyze the day’s events is what draws me in. He has a first-rate mind sharpened by a first-rate education but still retains a positive disposition and a sense of humor. The depth of knowledge he possesses is almost as impressive as his ability to shift through it and detail why it is relevant to today’s events. And to do it in simple terms.

The factoids, the analysis and the lectures. I loved it all.

In spite of the fact that the wing nuts on the Right tried to make the book seem anti-American, it is actually very uplifting. Mr. Zakaria has the ability to step outside of America and look back in, with a clarity that most Americans lack. He uses this ability to point the way towards a brighter future for America. This is a book you need to read.

By the way, if you clicked on that previous link, you’ll see a better endorsement than mine. I don’t leave the dust jacket on my books when I’m reading them. How about you ?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Thoughts on LaHood Hearing

First -- once again -- I’m outside my area of expertise. I have no special knowledge of Washington‘s ways, nor hardly any insight into the Transportation Department. I did spend a boring two hours listening to Congressman LaHood’s confirmation hearing. As the saying goes, “There’s 142 minutes of my life I’ll never get back.”

Mr. LaHood is evidently a fine, upstanding old man that has done gloriously good things in his 14 years in Congress and never once riled anyone. Just in case you have 142 minutes that you would like to waste, you can watch it here. The hearing actually gets started at the 17 minute mark. Congressman LaHood finally gets to read his statement at the 65 minute mark.

Sometimes, what you don’t see tells you more than what you see. Check the papers (or GoogleNews) this morning and you won’t see anything about Secretary LaHood. Not unless you really dig for it. A perfunctory confirmation hearing and no news on a Department that will (presumably) be spending billions of dollars in the near future. Hmmm.

I did find Secretary LaHood’s comment, that finding an FAA Administrator is proving difficult, rather interesting. I guess finding someone to volunteer as Captain of the Titanic isn’t easy.

In addition, it seems as if the Committee believes NextGen is a foregone conclusion. I wonder how many of the Committee members (much less Secretary LaHood) could give an accurate description of NextGen ? Perhaps no one can. The Wikipedia entry for NextGen is telling.

”NOTE: The information contained in this article is incomplete and out of date. The Federal Aviation Administration will be rewriting and updating this information in the weeks to come.“

Down here in the South, we refer to that as buying a pig in a poke.

Don Brown
January 23, 2009

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Day One

Change Has Come to America

If you haven’t seen the new website, you need to click on the link above.

If they keep it clean and simple, I think my favorite part will be the blog. Audio/Visuals are nice -- they convey a lot of information quickly -- but they sure slow things down. I’ve noticed my own blog is a lot slower this week due to the few film clips I posted.

Sorry I didn’t get it up in time for you to set up your TiVo, but Congressman LaHood’s confirmation hearing is scheduled for today at 2 P.M.

Still no word on President Obama’s selection for FAA Administrator.

And just a gentle reminder...NATCA has now been 871 days without a contract. I’m afraid it will be many more. There are bigger fish to fry at the moment. But as they say, “Justice delayed is justice denied.” The controllers will wait. Just not forever.

Don Brown
January 21, 2009

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

America is Hope

Of all the words that will be spoken today, the one that will sum it all up, the one that remains eternal, is Hope.

Godspeed, Mr. Obama. And America.

Don Brown
January 20, 2008

Bad Karma

Strange how life works out. I’d just entered the previous post -- the video of Dana Perino -- and the very next thing I read was:

All That Experience and No Place to Go

”Bush appointees who can afford the luxury are taking time off. White House press secretary Dana Perino plans to travel with her husband to volunteer in South Africa at the Living Hope Community Center, a beneficiary of Bush's anti-AIDS initiative. “

Ms. Perino is one of the lucky ones. The gist of the article is that many Bush appointees are having a hard time finding jobs.

”The market is so poor, Davis said, that some senior GOP congressional aides "are fighting over taking a pay cut from $130,000 to $140,000 to just $60,000 to $70,000."

Davis often repeats a saying passed down by his grandfather, a former Nebraska attorney general: "There is nothing as desperate as a defeated politician looking for a job." “

I think I’ll refrain from commenting further.

Don Brown
January 20, 2009

It’s Over

This pretty well sums it up.

John Stewart is brilliant. Kudos to Dana Perino for being a good sport.

Don Brown
January 20, 2009

Monday, January 19, 2009

Zakaria and Ferguson - Trust

If you didn’t watch Fareed Zakaria’s program yesterday -- GPS -- you missed a heck of show. The last portion of his show was an interview with Niall (pronounced “Neal”) Ferguson. Mr. Ferguson is a historian from Harvard and just plain brilliant. He has a new book out (of course) --The Ascent of Money -- and I’ve already purchased it. Having read a previous book by Mr. Ferguson (Empire: The Rise and Demise of the British World Order and the Lessons for Global Power. It is NOT for the faint of heart) I’m looking forward to reading it. (And while I’m plugging books...I happen to be reading Mr. Zakaria’s right now -- The Post-American World.)

Anyway, the interview was about looking at our current financial crisis from a historical perspective. It was great (but scary) stuff. The transcript is already up and I feel sure the video will be on the GPS main page sooner or later. I wanted to tie this conversation into my previous post about trust in the financial markets but I didn’t have the time.

”NIALL FERGUSON, HARVARD UNIVERSITY AND AUTHOR, "THE ASCENT OF MONEY": We are now in a financial crisis that bears comparison with the Great Depression. Nobody should have any doubt about that.

The difference is that we're adopting very different monetary and fiscal policies to try to repress that crisis. That's why I would call it a Great Repression.

But it is potentially as bad. We're not out of the woods yet. And it seems to me that we're looking not only at the biggest post-war recession, but potentially also at an extremely slow, long, lost decade. It's something that nobody ...

ZAKARIA: Sort of like Japan in the '90s.

FERGUSON: That could be a good scenario. If you think of the Great Depression as the worst case scenario, we would be getting off lightly if we can get by with a decade of one percent per annum growth.

So at the moment, I'm really quite apprehensive that the process of deleveraging has far from run its course. There's no floor in sight in the real estate market. And these things have a self-perpetuating quality. One of the lessons of history is that depressions tend to feed on themselves. There is, after all, a psychological dimension to this. Once people get really spooked, it's very hard for the market to find its bottom. “

Because of my limited understanding of economics, this “psychological dimension “ is the factor I focus upon. I feel as if it will be what the average American focuses on also -- consciously or not. In a nutshell, who can we trust ? Who should we trust ?

This interview covers other fascinating ground, such as our relationship with China.

”ZAKARIA: What is the back story of what is going on now?

When people look back 50 years, 100 years from now, and they watch the United States in this extraordinarily vulnerable position because of all this debt -- somewhat true of Western Europe as well, perhaps in some ways more true -- and they watch China, with $2 trillion of surplus savings, with a budget surplus, growing still, for the most part, robustly, what will they say about the trajectory of these countries?

FERGUSON: I think they'll look back and say, you know what? There was actually one country at the heart of the global economy in the early 21st century, and it was called Chimerica -- China plus America. And these two economies were symbiotically linked. They were intertwined with one another.

China did the saving, America did the spending. China made its funds available through currency intervention, the United States took the money and piled on the debt.“

The transcript is well worth the time it takes to read. (Scroll down towards the end of it for the interview.)

But back to the central question, “Who do we trust ?”. My perception is that there are two groups fighting for your trust. The first, I believe, includes the conventional wisdom. We come up with a stimulus plan -- as big as we dare -- and hope for the best. It will be the biggest gamble in economic history. And make no mistake, it is a gamble. Nobody knows for certain what will happen. It’s just the best plan that the best minds can come up with.

The other group -- and I hope they’re in the minority -- wants more of the same. I think of them as “The Ones That Got Us Into This Mess”. Tax cuts and an unregulated economy. Never mind that it didn’t work. Never mind the the non-sensical logic of it all -- we can pay off a mountain of debt and pay for two wars by cutting taxes.

I hope you have figured out that you will have to decide on which course to take with whatever limited knowledge you have of the situation. Oh, you can decide not to decide all right. But that is -- in effect -- making a decision. When the conservative talk show hosts tell their listeners to call their Congressmen (and you know they’ll scream for lower taxes and less government spending) you can sit this one out. The banks and the businesses won’t have to scream. They’re close enough to Congress to whisper. Besides, money talks. You don’t have to get involved in running your country now. You can sit this one out too. Of course, that is how we got into the mess in the first place isn’t it ?

Don Brown
January 19, 2008

A Challenge for the Press

I just finished reading this line from The Mercury News in a piece by Ed Perkins.

”Accelerating the modernization of our air-traffic control system is both a "should do" and likely "will do." The current failure to modernize our creaking system is a national disgrace — especially since we have the technology to provide major improvements. Using available satellite-based equipment and systems, the Federal Aviation Administration could reduce fuel consumption, speed flights and increase the capacity of congested airports. “

(Emphasis added)

I don’t mean to pick on Mr. Perkins (I’ve heard this line dozens of times, from dozens of reporters) so I’m issuing the following challenge to all reporters. Show me. Show me how any “satellite-based equipment” will “increase the capacity of congested airports.”

While you’re at it, give me some numbers. As a matter of fact, give me some numbers for some real airports. Something along the lines of, “A satellite-based system will increase the capacity of LaGuardia airport by 2 operations per hour.” First, I don’t think you can do it -- and second, I bet if you could it couldn’t be done except by limiting the traffic at Kennedy and/or Newark.

I know these three airports have issues with their shared airspace, due to their close proximity. It’s tempting to believe that more precise navigation would mitigate these issues. Even if it does, how does that increase the capacity of the airport ? This is more than just semantics.

Let’s suppose we have an absolutely perfect flying day. In addition, we have the very best pilots and controllers on duty. Everything is going to run perfectly. The final controller will have the airplanes perfectly spaced for landing, the pilots will taxi off the runways without any hesitation. The pilots in the departing aircraft will be ready at the departure end of the runway and they will not hesitate when the controller says “cleared for takeoff.” At the end of a perfect hour we find that we have run 62 operations. That, my friends, is the maximum capacity of the airport. It will never, ever, increase until a new runway is built. How will a satellite-based system increase that number ?

Now, here’s the real question. How many of you think there has ever been a perfect hour at an airport ? Much less a day, a month or a year ? Don’t you think aircraft ought to be scheduled using a more “reality-based system” ?

Oh, and Mr. Perkins ? You’re wrong about this too.

”4) Airport fees

Changing the way users pay for air-traffic control and airport services is another big "should," but the "will" outlook is bleak. Currently, the funding and fees artificially encourage airlines to overschedule flights in small aircraft, causing unnecessary airport and airways congestion and limiting the system's total capacity. Airport and air-traffic control fees based on actual use of capacity would be a major step in the right direction. The best way to implement such a change would be to spin off the air-traffic control function from the FAA into a quasi-public non-profit agency that could set its own pricing formulas and issue bonds for needed investments. Sadly, these improvements are likely to be stalled: Too many entrenched interests — from private fliers to some union groups — oppose them.“

You might want to take a look at what is happening in Australia. Australia used to come up quite often in the Free Marketeers’ talking points - as a system we in the States should emulate. Now ? Not so much.

Now I’m picking on you.

Don Brown
January 19, 2008

Who Do You Trust ?

You may remember from back in the summer, Shelia Bair -- head of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation -- received this glowing review in The Washington Post. In Paul Krugman's column today, she is mentioned again -- but in a different light.

Wall Street Voodoo

"The current buzz suggests, however, that policy makers aren’t willing to take either of these approaches. Instead, they’re reportedly gravitating toward a compromise approach: moving toxic waste from private banks’ balance sheets to a publicly owned “bad bank” or “aggregator bank” that would resemble the Resolution Trust Corporation, but without seizing the banks first.

Sheila Bair, the chairwoman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, recently tried to describe how this would work: “The aggregator bank would buy the assets at fair value.” But what does “fair value” mean?"

You might want to read the whole opinion piece.

" Why go through these contortions? The answer seems to be that Washington remains deathly afraid of the N-word — nationalization. The truth is that Gothamgroup and its sister institutions are already wards of the state, utterly dependent on taxpayer support; but nobody wants to recognize that fact and implement the obvious solution: an explicit, though temporary, government takeover."

I'll be honest, I don't really know which way to go. But Mr. Krugman, a world-class economist, has a way of making complex issues understandable. That might have something to do with the fact he's a teacher. Regardless, he makes sense. That is more that I can say (often) for Wall Street or Capitol Hill. But there's more to this than me confessing my ignorance of economics. What is missing out of this whole equation is trust. Trust in Wall Street. Trust in our government. If I can't trust Wall Street -- and I can't unless I understand it -- I won't give them my money. That is a major problem with our economy right now.

If we can't trust our government, we have even bigger problems. Our government relies on the consent of the governed -- you and me. Without it -- and the people's trust -- it is doomed to failure. Without government, we are doomed to chaos. Government and Wall Street need to realize that this consent relies on a certain amount of simplicity. They need to be understandable to a majority of the population. We tend to forget that every once in awhile. That's the reason we get things like derivatives. Those are built solely on trust -- they're too complicated for hardly anyone to understand. Even bankers. When that trust fails, everything fails. That's when the shooting starts.

Don Brown
January 19, 2009

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Inside Baseball

Don’t worry about it. If you don’t understand it -- you’re not supposed to. Just one of my favorite movie scenes.

Don Brown
January 17, 2009

Union YES !

Now, why didn’t I think of that ?

This Miracle Brought to You by America’s Unions

”They're detailing the heroism of all involved, starting with the pilot and including cabin crew, ferry crews, and first responders. What they're not telling you is that just about every single one of these heros is a union member. “

And I loved this little dig about Reagan:

”They're represented by the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. Someday, they'll rename National Airport for the work these men and women do to keep us safe in the air. “

I was going to write something along the lines of being grateful for all those government regulations requiring constant life-saving drills, taxes paying for all those fancy (and expensive) pieces of public-safety equipment and even the safety investigators that got so many “lessons learned” incorporated into concrete measures aimed at improving the survivability of accidents.

But I like this angle better.

Don Brown
January 17, 2009

Start With A Laugh

While I’m busy trying to find something interesting and useful to write about, start your day off with a laugh.

The Non Sequitur.

Don Brown
January 17, 2009

Friday, January 16, 2009

Miracle on the Hudson

You obviously don’t need me to tell you about this story. But maybe you need me to find the best line...

"Heck," said Obama, "if he can save a crash like that, I might just make him Secretary of the Treasury."

From The Spoof.

Don Brown
January 16, 2009

Remember those Daffs ?

Remember ? The daffodils started blooming on January 7th because the weather has been so warm for so long ? You know it’s coming...

This morning’s temperature is 16. Tomorrow it’s supposed to get down to 6. Saturday night, it might snow.

Don Brown
January 16, 2009

Thursday, January 15, 2009

I Don’t Know Why...

Ben Sandilands gets it when so many don’t.

”Some 16 months after airliners began to lose a reliable air traffic control system in Australia, the air safety regulator, CASA, has done nothing to enforce the rules about staffing levels.”

It all seems pretty simple.

AirServices doesn't have enough controllers to man the terminals, regardless of whether they are members of a union or not; it doesn't have a credible or functioning training program to create new controllers; and it has a work force that is quitting in significant numbers for better pay and conditions in Eire, Dubai, Hong Kong and Germany.

The article in Crikey is well worth reading.

Or as others have claimed, even if the controllers and AirServices agree to a new pay deal tomorrow, nothing will save the system from chronic staffing shortages for years to come because of past mismanagement of resources.

And yes, it does sound a lot like the situation in America.

Don Brown
January 15, 2009

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Mr. President -- Sean Hannity

I certainly don’t expect you to click on this video and watch it. I’d prefer that you not. I just want you to see the image and I’d prefer that you use the time to reflect on what it represents.

I saw just a glimpse of the video on The Daily Show last night and it hit me in the head like a hammer. I didn’t hear anything else Jon Stewart said for the next 5 minutes. The President of the United States of America -- and everything that office stands for -- walking around the White House with Sean Hannity.

I’m pretty sure most Americans understand all this. But think about my overseas readers. How do we explain to the rest of the world that the supposed leader of the Free World -- the man in charge of two active wars and charged with responding to a world economic crisis that began in our country -- makes time in his schedule to deal with the likes of Sean Hannity ?

The symbolism alone is reprehensible. The elevation in stature it provides Mr. Hannity is obscene. The fact that the President -- and all those responsible for protecting him and the Office -- would make time for such a wretched, loathsome, second-rate demagogue is viciously vile. It’’s...words fail me.

It’s hard to avoid thinking the unthinkable -- our system of government completely and utterly failed. We elected a fool (not once but twice) and our vaunted system of checks and balances did virtually nothing to save us. America failed. Americans failed.

May God forgive us. I’m not sure the rest of the world should.

(Added at the last minute: Dan Frromkin’s devastating short summation of the Bush Presidency.)

Don Brown
January 14, 2009

I Don’t Know What to Say

Really. Read this:

”Greenspan theorized that the paradigm shift that moved the 1980s toward greater optimism came largely from something unanticipated. In 1981, President Ronald Reagan fired striking air traffic controllers. This act could have instantly produced a nationwide transportation walkout with devastating economic consequences. Everyone held their breath. But the strike didn't happen. At the time, American businesses had been written off as competitive dinosaurs. But now they had the political green light to restructure and become lean and mean. Economic optimism became infectious.

Barack Obama desperately needs his own paradigm-shifting spark. “

I wonder if that is anything close to what Greenspan (yes, that Greenspan) meant ? If so, it would explain a lot. (Like the current economic meltdown.) But, in that the author is David M. Smick, I have my doubts.

What the heck. Seeing as we’re accepting anything as serious analysis these days, let me toss in my own. Well, actually, it’s just a twist on what became accepted wisdom by controllers a few years after the strike. Reagan fired the wrong group. He should have fired all the managers.

So that’s my recommendation to President-elect Obama. If Mr. Obama needs a “paradigm-shifting spark “ every manager in the FAA. I bet that would cure a lot of the bureaucratic foot dragging he’s sure to encounter as President. Never mind that managers are an important source of institutional memory -- just as controllers were. It would be “bold action.” It would be a “game changer.” Maybe in 30 years, desperate people will spin a disaster into a tale of “economic optimism.”

Don Brown
January 14, 2009

And So It Starts

You can expect to see a lot more of these stories. It will happen slowly, but it will indeed sink into the national consciousness. What happens then is anybody’s guess. We may wind up with better laws. We may wind up with civil disorder.

Meet Lady Subprime

”How was Madoff's alleged scheme so different? He could go to jail. The other guys are scot-free. But they had to know that Halterman could not pay off her mortgage. They had to know that she could not afford a 15.25 percent interest rate. It didn't matter. One institution sold to another, taking its fees, passing along this Ponzified paper like it was a hot potato -- don't hold it for too long or you'll get burned -- and then offering it to the vaunted, all-knowing and downright perfect Market, our secular god.“

I know that quote is a little obscure but I want you to go read the article. Ms. Halterman got an $11,090 bribe to take out a mortgage on her shack. The mortgage company got a $9, 243 kickback to write it. They didn’t use those words, but they should have.

Don Brown
January 14, 2009

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A “Short” Film

The controllers Down Under, I think, have a good idea. They’re making the people responsible for understaffing their air traffic control system famous. Take a look and see if this doesn’t give you some ideas.

Mission Impossible ?

Australia (according to the film) only has 792 controllers. America has around 14,000. I would expect to see -- oh, I don’t know -- about 17 times as much material put out by American controllers. More importantly, I see the Australians trying to hold their management accountable.

If the future managers in the FAA see this current lot slink off into the sunset -- grasping their Federal pensions as they waltz through the revolving door to private industry -- nothing will change.

The world is watching NATCA. Lessons are being learned. You are being studied. The Obama Administration won’t be in power forever. The ones that will take their place are watching you -- right now -- to see what price the current Administration is going to pay for abusing your members. I recommend you make it costly enough that no one ever tries it again.

Don Brown
January 13, 2008

Monday, January 12, 2009

A Cure for All Curiosity

Before I say anything else, I want to say A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East is a good book. Heck, it’s probably a great book. Having said that, thank the Lord, I finally finished it.

A Peace to End All Peace was in the running for the National Book Critics Circle award and a Pulitzer Prize. If you want to know how the modern Middle East emerged from the end of World War I and the demise of the Ottoman Empire, this is the authoritative book. It just drove me nuts reading it.

It was not, however, uninteresting.

”The principal danger, as “The Times” pictured it, lay in British overcommitment. The principal challenge to the country, in its view, was at home and was economic. Britain needed to invest her money in renewing herself economically and socially, and was threatened in her very existence by a governmental disposition to squander money instead on Middle Eastern adventures. In an editorial published on 18 July 1921 “The Times” denounced the government for this, saying that “while they have spent nearly £150,000,000 since the Armistice upon semi-nomads in the Mesopotamia they can find only £200,000 a year for the regeneration of our slums, and have had to forbid all expenditure under the Education Act of 1918.“”

Does any of that sound familiar ?

If you’re going to major in Middle Eastern history, this is the book for you. Otherwise, it will just hurt your head.

On the opposite side of the spectrum is Mark Stein’s easy-reading How the States Got Their Shapes. I breezed through it in a couple of days and enjoyed every bit of it. Fascinating and fun. Unfortunately, reality intrudes when you begin to realize just how much of our country’s history (not to mention its borders) is shaped by slavery.

One of the more fascinating facts is just how many of the States willingly gave up gold mines to maintain the political status quo. Yes, I’m being literal. Gold would be discovered in a Territory nearing Statehood and borders would be realigned to exclude the gold mines (and the miner’s votes) from the soon-to-be-State.

Both of these books highlight one of the fundamental facts of life. Much of the world’s history can be explained by geography. Geography explains America’s most easily discernible State border -- the Mississippi River -- and (if you think of a land route between Egypt and India) it explains why the British have been in Basra, Iraq before.

Don Brown
January 12, 2008

Friday, January 09, 2009

Dumb Daffodils

They don’t realize that Global Warming is a hoax spread by left-wing, environmental radicals. They keep blooming in January instead of March.

Last time, they waited until January 19th. It’s only January 9th and they started blooming 2 days ago. The new ones I planted haven’t bloomed yet. They’re starting to poke through though.

I didn’t start gardening until I moved into my current house, about 10 years ago. Georgia was split between “hardiness zones” 7a and 7b. Now, almost the entire State is zone 8. Well, according to the Arbor Day Foundation. Your Federal Government hasn’t bothered to update the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map.

This site puts it all together for you.

”Note of Explaination from Raintree Nursery: Every fifteen years the USDA puts out a new Hardiness Zone Map. In 2005 a new map was due out however it has not yet been published. The Arbor Day Foundation, a non-profit organization used the same weather data that the USDA uses to make their maps and made a new Hardiness Zone Map. They also made another map that shows the differences in zones over the past 15 years. You will notice that much of the nation has gotten one zone warmer. While this is good in a limited sense because some people can now grow plants in areas that were previously too cold, it is alarming as further evidence that global warming is a real and significant phenomenon.“

I’ll let you draw your own conclusions. I’ve got enough problems. I’ve got about 700 daffodils trying to bloom. After a few weeks of warm weather, it’s supposed to go down into the 20s, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.

Glad I’m not a farmer. Too bad we all depend on those that are.

(BTW, my daughter took the picture with her new Christmas present.)

Don Brown
January 9, 2009

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Obama’s Message

James Fallows taught me to look for the sub-message in this blog entry about Mr. Obama’s selection of Eric Shinseki as Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

”But in his (reported) choice of Eric Shinseki as Secretary of Veterans Affairs, there is also an extremely refined aspect of sticking in the shiv. “

”...not to mention a Japanese-American honored for lifelong military service on Pearl Harbor Day. “

”As for the other symbolic element -- that Obama is elevating the man who was right, when Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Cheney, et al were so catastrophically wrong -- that is something that neither Obama nor anyone around him need say out loud, ever. “

When I watched Mr. Obama’s speech from today, I almost failed to notice that it was at George Mason University (GMU). In my constant reading since retirement, I thought I had noticed a correlation between GMU and conservative talking points -- such as “Business Good, Government Bad.” The speech (and Mr. Fallows) inspired me to take a look. It didn’t take long.

From Media Transparency

”The heavy stream of money invested in George Mason University offers a striking example of the attention that conservative foundations have paid to the recruitment and training of college youth. Located just outside the Washington, D.C. beltway and offering good access to national decision makers, George Mason University has been a magnet for right-wing money for over a decade.

From 1992 through 1994, the 12 foundations invested a combined total of $8.55 million in various academic programs and institutes of George Mason University. This amount placed the University third among all academic and non-academic grantees, traiing only the more prestigious University of Chicago and the Heritage Foundation. “

From The Washington Post

”The law and economics program at the University of Chicago and a famous program founded at the University of Miami and now part of the George Mason University Law School in Fairfax have received millions from Scaife. “

”Scaife has given tens of millions to favored academic departments, from the George Mason University department of economics (a bastion of free-market economic theory) to a now-defunct security studies program at New York University.“

Richard Mellon (yes, those Mellons) Schaife is a name you need to remember.

I’m not savvy enough to know for certain that I’m getting the sub-message. The main message was loud and clear. Wall Street and Big Business have failed leaving the Government as the only player left, capable of cleaning up the mess. In other words, Big Government is back. That isn’t exactly what GMU has been teaching. Again, I could be wrong but I’m thinking the sub-message was, “Get on board or get run over.”

Don Brown
January 8, 2009

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

More Broken Government

Here’s another tale of woe from your government, via The Washington Post

Federal Labor Relations Authority At a Crossroads

”As the new chairman of the Federal Labor Relations Authority, Beck's task is to reinvigorate an organization that had become almost useless.“

From Wikipedia: ”The Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) is an independent agency of the United States government that governs labor relations between the federal government and its employees. “

This is just another example of the Bush Administration crippling unions. If the authority that settles cases between union and management can’t function, cases don’t get decided. Management can impose whatever they want, stand back and say (in effect), “Take me to court”, knowing full well the union can’t. Back to The Washington Post:

”When Beck was sworn in as chairman in October, he found an agency with a backlog of some 400 cases. Until he took office, only one of three seats on the authority was filled, rendering it impotent for months. The agency has operated without a general counsel since March, which means the agency cannot prosecute unfair-labor-practices cases.“

But wait, there’s more.

”"At every level, our effectiveness was compromised by staffing issues," said Carol Waller Pope, the authority's other member."

Curiously, the previous management did not spend all the money it was appropriated, according to Beck. Between $1 million and $1.5 million of agency funding was returned to the Treasury each year since fiscal 2003, until last year. “

For those wondering, yes, I have covered this subject before.

For those that followed the links from this morning’s post, I hope you caught this line:

”There is no historic precedent for mass prosperity absent mass collective bargaining. The model cannot be constructed. “

There are hundreds of stories within our government just like this one. The clean-up task awaiting Mr. Obama and the next Congress is monumental. The stakes could not be higher. The years after The Crash in 1929 were not good ones.

1930s -- ”In Western Europe, Australia and the United States, more progressive reforms occurred as opposed to the extreme measures sought elsewhere. Roosevelt's New Deal attempted to use government spending to combat large-scale unemployment and severely negative growth. In Europe, multiple countries turn to authoritarian, nationalist, and fascist governments such as in Austria, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, and Spain. “

1940s -- ”The 1940s was a period between the radical 1930s and the conservative 1950s, which also leads the period to be divided in two halves:

The first half of the decade was dominated by World War II, the widest and most destructive armed conflict in human history. So consequential was this event and its brutal aftermath that it laid the foundation for other major world events and trends for decades to follow. This war was also the first modern civilian war.

The second half of the 1940s marked the beginning of the Cold War, the race between the US and the Soviet Union to invent better technology. “

You may think it’s a leap -- from the FLRA to World War II. We had this saying in air traffic control, “If you take care of the little stuff the big stuff will take care of itself.” If a man has a decent job and can feed his family, it’s difficult to stir him up. If you take his job, steal his pension and he can’t feed his family -- if you take away his dignity -- it’s a lot easier to get him to fight.

Don Brown
January 7, 2009

Harold’s History Lesson

I have this bad feeling that aviation stories are going to be harder and harder to find. My instinct tells me that aviation doesn’t do well in a Depression -- more so than most businesses.

Meanwhile, while I search for an interesting aviation angle, you can read this history lesson from Harold Meyerson at The Washington Post.

A Page From the Hoover Playbook

”Devised by the quants (Wall Street's name for the gifted mathematicians it employed), the models factored in an immense number of variables, including market behavior going back a quarter-century, in coming up with daily quantifications of risk.

But in addition to all their quants, Wall Street should have hired a handful of hists (my version of Wall Streetese for economic historians). Those hists might have insisted that the risk models include data from the late 1920s, the last time that America's financial institutions were as highly leveraged and as lightly regulated as they were last year. “

Speaking of history, I was watching The Daily Show and one of the guests mentioned that some historical book about the Depression was sold out at Amazon. It’s on back order for 6 months.

Gee...(ahem)...who knew you could learn so much from books ?

Don Brown
January 7, 2009

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

You Have Been Warned

Just in case you missed Paul Krugman’s column yesterday:

”The fact is that recent economic numbers have been terrifying, not just in the United States but around the world. Manufacturing, in particular, is plunging everywhere. Banks aren’t lending; businesses and consumers aren’t spending. Let’s not mince words: This looks an awful lot like the beginning of a second Great Depression. “

Mr. Krugman still believes that a large (a really large) government stimulus package is our best hope for minimizing the damage to the economy. He also sees the political pitfalls for that approach.

”More broadly, after decades of declaring that government is the problem, not the solution, not to mention reviling both Keynesian economics and the New Deal, most Republicans aren’t going to accept the need for a big-spending, F.D.R.-type solution to the economic crisis.“

Already, you see the Republican Party plotting strategy to obstruct the momentum and size of any economic stimulus. You also see all the various entities in the U.S. transforming their pet projects to fit the bill as an “economic stimulus.”

I hope you’ve been thinking about the role the FAA might play in this scenario. I have. As usual (for a cantankerous ex-safety rep), I have little to offer that is politically popular. I still believe that our basic ATC structure is capable of handling the load our physical infrastructure (i.e. runways and airports) is capable of handling. I don’t believe NextGen will increase the capacity of LGA, JFK, EWR, et al.

I believe the nation would be better served if the FAA used this time (and hopefully money) to concentrate on the nuts and bolts of the ATC system -- the radios, radars and (most importantly) the people. Instead, I bet we get NextGen.

Once again, the FAA plays the role of a microcosm of our government. For thirty years our government has been dismantled -- after being defined as “the problem”. Now that we need it to bail us out of this mess, I’m deathly afraid it won’t be up to the job.

Don Brown
January 6, 2009

Monday, January 05, 2009

If a Tree Falls...

You know the age-old question, “If a tree falls in a forest and there is no one there to hear...” The Washington Post provided a real-life example of that question in an article back in 2007.

If a world-class violinist -- playing a $3.5 million dollar Stradivarius -- played some of the best music ever written for a violin, would you hear it ? Would you recognize the beauty right in front of you ? Do you think so ?

What if it was being played in a train station and you thought the violinist was just another street performer ?

This isn’t the usual fare for my blog. But if you’re curious and you have some time, you might find it an interesting commentary on our too-busy lives here in these United States.

Pearls Before Breakfast
Can one of the nation's great musicians cut through the fog of a D.C. rush hour? Let's find out.

In case you’re wondering, I heard about it in a sermon last Sunday.

Don Brown
January 5, 2008

More Coverage on Peter’s Story

I’m very pleased to see that Peter’s story is getting even more coverage.

OhMyGov! Salutes: Air traffic controller Peter Nesbitt

The FAA Follies covered it too.

The Good Guys Win One

"Got all that? Peter used to work in Austin. He transfers to Memphis. He sees a procedure there that doesn’t seem safe. He brings it up to the FAA and they ignore him. He brings it up to Congress, the NTSB, and NASA’s safety reporting program, and the FAA punishes him and treats him like crap. (They even tried to take away his dog. I am not making this up.)"

That’s right. They tried to get the Humane Society to take his dog. It backfired on them. You can read the story by following the link above to The FAA Follies or click here to go directly to the story. I believe the Humane Society has a hero or two of their own.

I hope you’re asking yourself a question, “Who did the FAA discipline for this fiasco ?” As far as I can tell, nobody.

Don Brown
January 5, 2008

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Well Done, Peter

From today's headlines:

FAA reaches settlement with whistle-blower

"The FAA agreed Dec. 4 to return Peter Nesbitt to air traffic control duties and transfer him to Austin, Texas, at the same salary, and to pay his relocation and legal expenses, said Leslie Williamson, a spokeswoman for the Office of Special Counsel, a federal agency that investigates whistle-blower complaints."

Some of you may recognize Peter's name from my blog. If you would like to refresh your memory, you can start here. In short, Peter cared enough to bring a safety problem to the FAA's attention. He cared enough to keep pushing until the FAA got tired of him and tried to silence him. When that didn't stop him, the FAA retaliated. That didn't work either.

Having been in Peter's shoes, I can testify to the emotional and physical toll these efforts take on an individual. It is not an easy thing to stand up to your boss, the FAA and the U.S government. No one makes the decision to put their career on the line lightly. I was somewhat more protected than Peter due to my public exposure as a columnist on AVweb. And the Bush/Blakey/Sturgell Administration was nastier than any Administration I ever had to fight.

"FAA eventually agreed to new procedures at Memphis that space aircraft farther apart."

That last sentence in the article tells you what you need to know. Peter was right. The FAA was wrong. And if you are John Q. Public, you owe one of your public servants a great, big "thank you".

Don Brown
January 3, 2009

Friday, January 02, 2009

The Stubborn South

I liked this editorial from Harold Meyerson in The Washington Post.

The Big Bailout Lessons

”Now as then, the conflict centered on the rival labor systems of North and South. Now as then, the Southerners championed a low-wage, low-benefits system while the North favored a more generous one. And now as then, what sparked the conflict was the North's fear of the Southern system becoming the national norm. Or, as Lincoln put it, a house divided against itself cannot stand.“

An interesting thought (and analogy).

While I’m here, if you’re a Federal employee, you really should consider putting The Washington Post on your reading list. It simply has more news about the Federal government than other publications.

Having said that, Paul Krugman has a good column in The New York Times today. It too puts the South in a poor light.

Bigger Than Bush

”Where did this hostility to government come from? In 1981 Lee Atwater, the famed Republican political consultant, explained the evolution of the G.O.P.’s “Southern strategy,” which originally focused on opposition to the Voting Rights Act but eventually took a more coded form: “You’re getting so abstract now you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is blacks get hurt worse than whites.” In other words, government is the problem because it takes your money and gives it to Those People.“

Don Brown
January 2, 2009

More On America

My friend, Bob, wrote me about my previous post, Doom is a Good Choice. Evidently, I was being a little too vague.

My wife drives a Honda Odyssey. It’s her second one. They are great cars. They also happen to be manufactured in Alabama.

Singapore Airlines is one of the finest airlines in the world. Bob, having recently flown on them, wanted to make sure I knew that. Bob and I both know that none of our airlines -- currently -- are much to brag about. The Singapore government owns a large portion of Singapore Airlines.

I’m not arguing that the U.S. government should buy a large stake in one of our airlines. I’m not saying that Alabamians should be making “American” cars. I am saying that there are other ways to be successful than what has been the accepted wisdom in the U.S. for the last 30 years. I am saying we need to look at the whole picture. For instance, Singapore has a universal healthcare system that works in conjunction with a private healthcare system. Japan has a universal healthcare insurance system. I don’t know what the autoworkers in Alabama have but I’m betting it isn’t “universal” anything. I bet they don’t have a union either.

The pilots of Singapore Airlines do (have a union.)

”The salary ranges of SIA's pilots were made public during the first day of the hearings, and the press noted that the airline's 935 captains who fly the Boeing 777 received higher salaries (over S$270,000) at the mid-point of their salary brackets compared to the company's 36 vice-presidents (S$233,270) “

(Have I mentioned how much I love Wikipedia lately ?)

I’m not an expert on all these matters but the more you know the more questions you can ask. Of yourself. Of business. Of your country. Tell me again what is wrong with universal healthcare or universal healthcare insurance ? Japanese “quality” from Alabama ? A successful airline that pays its captains as well ours used to be paid (back when they were successful) ? How do they do that ? Is it unions, that they value pilots more than vice presidents or because their government helps them out ? Or all three ? Could it be the universal healthcare ? What would universal healthcare do for our airline industry and car manufacturing industry ? What would it do for our citizens ?

All I’m saying is that when someone mentions universal healthcare, the debate ought to be a little deeper than “That’s socialism.” Unions don’t cripple car manufacturers anymore than they do airlines. You don’t have to look to Singapore Airlines, just ask the folks at Southwest.)

Don Brown
January 2, 2009

Thursday, January 01, 2009

ZTL on YouTube

This brings back memories.

Inside the World of Air Traffic Control

I can’t remember if I posted it before but I reckon that means you can’t either. For those that care, the two sectors on display at ZTL are Sector 50 -- LANIER and Sector 49 -- LOGEN. They are on the northeast side of ATL and work the MACEY arrivals. LANER is a high altitude sector and LOGEN is a low altitude sector that feeds the ATL arrivals to Atlanta Tracon.

Don Brown
January 1, 2009

Doom is a Good Choice

A good word choice for this article in USA Today

New bankruptcies could doom some airlines

”In previous downturns, carriers often used Chapter 11 as a reset button that let them emerge from bankruptcy even stronger by shedding debt and other obligations, such as pensions." Now, however, BusinessWeek says "many airlines have hocked most of their assets, leaving them little to borrow against.“

If they were “even stronger” I wonder why they’re facing “doom” now ? Could it be that the folks running the airline industry aren’t any smarter than the guys running Wall Street ? And those that have been setting public policy all these years aren't either ? That would be my bet.

Lets face it folks -- we’ve watched as some of the giants of American business fell: PanAm, TWA and Eastern. Do you remember a time when owning airline stocks was a good thing ? When the job of an airline captain was a desirable job with great pay ? I do.

To quote Robert Crandall (allegedly), ”You %$#&ing academic eggheads ! You’re going to wreck this industry !”

It just took them 30 years to spend all the money, steal the pensions and sell the planes. Along those lines, a retired airline pilot put a thought in my head that just won’t go away. What’s the angle with frequent flier miles ? I read Hard Landing -- I know how they started. But what have they turned into ? How many millions (billions ?) of dollars worth of frequent flier miles are there out there ? Have the airlines sold off their past (reputations), their present (employees) and their future (frequent flier miles) too ?

When are we going to face it ? Their business model does not work. Our public policy regarding airlines does not work. If we let them, they’ll sell the industry to foreign competition and you’ll be flying to see Grandma on Singapore Airlines -- just like you drive a Honda now. And before you give the Pavlovian response of “So what ?”, you need to think long and hard about the implications and consequences. One of which is, “What’cha gonna do when they come for you ?”

Don Brown
January 1, 2009