Saturday, February 04, 2012

Groundhog Day Too

Quick, tell me what year this headline is from:

N.Y. Airports Account for Half of All Flight Delays

That’s right, it could be from any year in the last 30 years. Groundhog Day. It is, of course, from this year. I read it right after I got back from Communicating for Safety -- listening to how much money and time and effort we could save if only we’d buy this particular snake oil or adopt this superior management technique (all on sale for only $19.99.)

I guess we should take a look at the story behind the headline above:

”And the delays persist, despite changes in procedures and schedules by the airlines, airports and Federal Aviation Administration over the years. (In the latest move, the F.A.A. last fall created new flight paths out of Kennedy to speed up departures.) Even a significant drop in the number of flights since the economy slowed has not helped much. Flight delays last year in New York were as bad as they were five years ago.”

I see some interesting parsing of numbers. Consider the next paragraph:

”In the first half of 2011, the region’s airspace — defined as the big three airports, plus Teterboro Airport in New Jersey, which caters to corporate jets, and Philadelphia International Airport — handled 12 percent of all domestic flights but accounted for nearly half of all delays in the nation. In the same period in 2005, they represented just a third of all delays, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office.”

Except on Tuesdays, subject to availability, tax and tags extra. I think I praise The New York Times enough that I can say the writing on this one is a little confusing. Mostly because it is quoting too many government statistics that are supposed to be confusing. Otherwise, John Q. Public would figure this all out. There are lots and lots of comparisons of apples and oranges here in this black and white medium. (Think on vs. orange in a B&W newspaper. Kind of spoils it when I explain it doesn’t it?)

Flight delays are always bad in New York. Even though the rest of the country is losing flights, New York is still overscheduled. Even if the New York metro area lost some flights to the recession it would still be overscheduled. It would have to lose a lot of flights to have a significant impact on delays.

There’s a perfect of example of this later in the article.

”In poor weather — the litmus test for any airport — O’Hare can land 84 planes an hour, compared with the 68 to 72 before the new runway.

On-time departures from O’Hare jumped to 77 percent in 2010 from 68 percent in 2008.”

There’s a lot to discover in those two lines -- if you know how to read them. I’m guessing a lot of Americans don’t. Even though Chicago added capacity (a runway), the airlines schedule more airplanes than even the expanded capacity can handle. The inference is that if we just build more runways (NIMBY) we’d cure our delays. We won’t. The airlines will just schedule more airplanes.

Can you see why I’m stuck on the Groundhog Day theme? I hope you can tell by the plethora of links -- I’ve said all this before. And yet, we still run around in circles chasing our tails. I heard an airline pilot talk about how one simple procedure has saved his company $120 million dollars. Wow! Shazam! Oh, wait a minute...his company went bankrupt anyway. And odds are, the corporation stole his pension while they were at it.

Do you have a couple of minutes to educate yourself? This video will sound like it’s off topic at the beginning, but I assure you, it’s dead center.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

The solution is really simple -- at least in concept: Regulation. If you want the “cheap” ticket of deregulation, you get the cheap job and bankrupt corporation that goes with it. If you want the cheap mortgage of a deregulated banking industry, you get the cheap job that goes with that too. Don’t forget, you got to bail out both of those industries with your cheap wages, cut benefits and stolen pension.

And you know what? You can’t solve this problem -- with effective regulation -- on the cheap. You’re going to have to pay some smart people to manage your country. Taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society. You have to choose. Cheap or civilized? You can’t have both. And it’s really simpler than that. If you keep choosing cheap, you’ll wind up losing everything -- your job, your pension, your home and even your country.

Don Brown
February 4, 2012

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