Friday, January 15, 2010

Another Gruesome Reminder



I’m only writing this for the new kids in air traffic control -- and maybe some civilians that never think about these things. Pay attention to the response to the earthquake in Haiti. You will quickly see how important aviation is to any nation -- particularly America.

The airport at Port-Au-Prince has already turned into a lifeline. It’s the same story that is told in every disaster. What goes unsaid is that none of this infrastructure appears by magic. We have to build the airports and -- somehow -- maintain a national capacity to build airplanes and helicopters.

In every world crisis such as this, all eyes turn to America. Everyone knows that only America can do the heavy lifting. And I mean that quite literally. It is America’s heavy lift capability -- the C-5s, C-130s and C-17s that make the difference. All nations respond with what they have but no one has anything like what we have.

If the heavy iron can’t get in, America has the capacity to send in the big helicopters -- in big numbers. Some of you might remember what New Orleans looked like after Katrina.

A relief effort can start with something as small as a soccer field turned in to a helipad. But to count, capacity must quickly be built to handle volume. And that mean an operational airfield -- and yes -- air traffic controllers.

The next time someone is talking about aviation policy and they seem focused on keeping the airlines on time and privatizing airports -- keep this gruesome reminder in the back of your mind. The National Airspace System and our airlift capacity are really important. They are much too important to base on secondary concerns and ideology.

American air power is vital. From World War II to the Berlin Airlift to Desert Storm to the Indian Ocean Tsunami relief, it is American air power that makes a difference. Even on the sea, when there’s trouble, no one asks, “Where’s the fleet ?” They ask, “Where are the aircraft carriers ?”

Don Brown
January 15, 2010

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