Saturday, February 28, 2009

False Start

So, I’m reading the latest propaganda from The Reason Foundation and they mention a paper. Now, I know the paper is going to agree with The Reason Foundation but still, you never know what you might learn in these things. So I downloaded the paper and started reading.

Right off the bat, there’s this cool chart. Did you know that, altogether...

Airservices Australia
Nav Canada
Direction des services de la navigation
Deutsche Flugsicherung GmbH
Irish Aviation Authority
Luchtverkeersleiding Nederland
Airways Corporation of New Zealand
Air Traffic and Navigation Services Ltd. (South Africa)
Skyguide (Switzerland)
National Air Traffic Services Ltd. (UK)

... employ 11,497 ATCOs (Air Traffic Control Officers) ?

According to this same chart, the Air Traffic Organization (ATO) of the FAA employs 14,930 Air Traffic Controllers.

All told, all of these other organizations run 218 Air Traffic Control Towers. The FAA runs 448. (The Irish Aviation Authority runs 3 Towers.) No word (yet) on the number of Air Traffic Control Centers.

Are you getting the Flick here folks ? Are you sure ? Consider Australia (26 Towers) or Canada (42 Towers). In terms of land mass they are comparable to the United States (448 Towers). We don’t have just the greatest airline-type system in the world, we have the greatest aviation system in the world. Some of our General Aviation airports are busier than their commercial airports. General Aviation is HUGE in the United States compared to the rest of the world. I really don’t believe most Americans realize what an asset the General Aviation industry is, nor why it’s so successful in the States. But back to that paper...

"We find that ANSP (Air Navigation Service Provider) commercialization has generally achieved its objectives. Service quality has improved in most cases. Several ANSPs have successfully modernized workplace technologies. The safety records of ANSP's are not adversely affected by commercialization, and in some cases safety is improved. Costs are generally reduced, sometimes significantly. Other risks of commercialization -- such as erosion of accountability to government, deterioration of labour relations, or worsened relationships between civil and military air traffic controllers -- have not materialized."

I’m guessing the authors don’t read my blog. Or the newspapers.

A shortage of controllers has left large chunks of Australian skies unmonitored, leaving pilots to rely only on radio and visual communication with other pilots to avoid mid-air collisions.

Former CASA chief Dick Smith has described the situation as "incredibly unsafe", saying few other countries in the world would allow passenger jets to fly through uncontrolled airspace.

Airservices has told airlines the incidence of uncontrolled airspace is likely to increase in the months ahead because of an ongoing shortage of controllers.

Qantas has instructed its pilots to avoid uncontrolled airspace where possible, while Jetstar and Virgin also try to avoid it but fly through it more frequently than Qantas. However, international passenger jets fly through it regularly despite warnings by air traffic controllers that foreign pilots have little understanding of safety procedures because they do not have uncontrolled airspace in their own countries.

(Note: The computer filing system at The Australian seems to have melted down. Lots of “404” errors.)

Instead of glossing over it, I won’t you to go back and read the quote from that position paper again. Slowly. Line by line. Think about what it says and what it doesn’t say.

"We find that ANSP (Air Navigation Service Provider) commercialization has generally achieved its objectives."

What were its “objectives” ? There were 10 different ANSPs listed. Did every one of them have the same objectives ?

"Service quality has improved in most cases."

In “most cases” ? You mean like, “not in all cases” ? Like Australia having huge chunks of uncontrolled airspace ? By the way, was that an “objective” or was that just “generally achieved “ ? Can anyone define “service quality” for me ? An image of Lockheed and the Flight Service Stations keeps coming to my mind.

"Several ANSPs have successfully modernized workplace technologies."

Modernized them from what ? The FAA “modernized” the system in Alaska and will tell you that the “Capstone” project improved the accident rate by some ridiculous amount. When you start with no system at all and install one, I guess that qualifies as “modernized”. But what does it mean ? Stone age, industrial age or Buck Rogers ?

I think you’ve got the Flick by now. Carry on. I’m going to go find something a little more interesting to read.

Don Brown
February 28, 2009

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