Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Notice the Difference

Some of you may have noticed that I don’t really involve myself much in the frenzy that occurs immediately after an aircraft accident. A lot of accidents don’t involve air traffic control which limits my interest. But mostly, it’s a habit of waiting for the facts. Most accident investigations are lengthy. A regulatory response to an accident -- if needed -- needs to wait for the facts.

That is all well and good but we do live in the real world and people want answers. Fast. The media tries to fill that desire -- of course. How they do it can provide some real insights into the quality of the publication. Take, for example, the mid-air collision between the helicopter and the aircraft above the Hudson river this weekend. Here’s an article about it from The New York Times. Please read the whole article if you have the time.

Officials Demand Tighter Control, or Even a Ban, of Hudson Air Traffic

”But interviews with aviation experts raised questions about the relevance and practicality of many of the initial suggestions made by the local elected officials.

The F.A.A. has neither the equipment nor personnel to manage the traffic that flies in the unrestricted space up to 1,100 feet above the Hudson in a way that would meaningfully limit accidents, said Barrett Byrnes, who retired last year as a controller at the Kennedy International Airport tower. “

Contrast that with this article from Rubert Murdoch’s rag, the New York Post. To be fair, this an editorial instead of “news”. It is written by, none other than, Robert Poole.


”The Clinton administration tried to make the same reform here, but got shot down by GA and other interest groups.

Depoliticizing air-traffic control would be very positive for air safety. It would speed the introduction and use of better technology like ADS-B, while freeing the FAA to focus on tougher safety regulation.

It's too late for the victims of Saturday's crash, but such changes could prevent many future collisions.

Robert W. Poole Jr. is the director of transportation studies at Reason Foundation. “

You’ve got to hand it to Mr. Poole. I never said he wasn’t talented. He managed to paint President Clinton as a failure, shill for the ATC contractors and call for the privatization of ATC all in a very short space.

A few points. First, it’s GA (general aviation) pilots that are doing the dying so I think it’s safe to assume they’re fairly interested in safety. Second, I have to question the usefulness of ADS-B in this situation. I really don’t know if it would be effective. One thing is for certain though, if the pilot had to have it but couldn’t afford it, he wouldn’t be flying. These libertarian guys confuse me. They don’t want the government in their lives -- unless it’s making them money.

Speaking of which, you have to love this quote from Mr. Poole:

”Nearly all Western nations (including Australia, Canada, the UK and almost all EU members) have separated air-safety regulation from the ATC business, usually divesting ATC as a stand-alone, customer-supported enterprise.“

Funny thing about all those countries, they have universal health care and/or insurance too. I’ll let you ponder that one on your own. For now.

Don Brown
August 12, 2009

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