Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Discover Magazine Article



I’m going to chose my words really carefully here so try to read them carefully. It seems I failed to mention that I was quoted a few times in a Discover magazine article. (I could swear I did but I can’t find it.) Anyway, the article is now on the web for your reading pleasure.

A Wing and a Prayer: The U.S.'s Crumbling Air-Travel Infrastructure

”People in aviation—the pilots, the air traffic controllers, and even the CEOs—are under constant pressure to make the airplanes fly and to make sure they fly on time,” Brown says. “The pressure to fly in poor weather, to tighten up the spacing between aircraft, and to wring every last drop of efficiency out of the system is incredible. “

I assume that sounds familiar to my readers. Now, here comes the tricky part. Linda Marsa, the author of the article did a good job. She spent a lot of time talking to me and working hard to understand the complexities involved in all these issues. And she does a fine job -- up to a point. That point would be NextGen. I -- that’s me, not Ms. Marsa nor her readers -- hated to see the standard NextGen song-and-dance in the article, right down to the seemingly-obligatory “1950s-style radar technology” line.

Here’s what you, I and the controller community have to understand. That line works. There’s a reason you see “1950s-style radar technology“ -- almost verbatim -- in every story about air traffic control. There’s a reason that when confronted with today’s problems, the FAA pushes the focus onto what they will do in the future. When you’ve been around as long as I have, you’ll begin to notice that tomorrow’s solutions become today’s problems. When “tomorrow” becomes “today”, the FAA will still be talking about tomorrow. There’s always another tomorrow. The FAA knew the power of “Hope” and “Change” long before President Obama ever became a politician.

So, here’s the rub. I believe Ms. Marsa to be a good, conscientious and smart reporter. She gave me a fair hearing, as I assume she did everyone else. I believe she was genuinely interested in the subject. I wouldn’t hesitate to talk to her again. The only conclusion I can come up with is that the FAA PR folks were more believable than me. That’s my fault, not hers.

It’s a good thing all this isn’t about me.

Now go read the article and enjoy. Yes, you read about Peter Nesbitt here too. And one last thing, did the name hit you too ? I don’t think I mentioned it to her. MARSA -- in ATC -- stand for Military Assumes Responsibility for Separation of Aircraft.

Don Brown
October 28, 2009

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