Believe it or not, one of the tough parts of writing a good blog is knowing when to keep your mouth shut. And yes, I know there are a few readers who can’t imagine I ever keep my mouth shut, but I really do.
Case in point. I had an opportunity to attend the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) general aviation issues conference last fall in Naples Florida. Pretty nice duty when you can get it I must admit.
The conference was designed to focus our attention for two days on general aviation. We almost never mentioned the airlines from what I remember. But there was one session that included a very nice lady – Faye Morrison – from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) who spoke to the issue of Very Light Jets (VLJ). I’ve always had a soft spot for the GAO because I honestly believed they act as a sort of watch-dog on the government and we all know they need it.
Although Morrison’s talk was relatively short, she did hold up this dandy GAO report she’d help build about the future of VLJs. It became clear pretty quickly though that her summary would suffice when she said the report essentially said … “VLJs, don’t know (what it all means) and it depends (what happens in the industry).” Gee was I excited to hear that kind of in-depth analysis for lord knows how many of our tax dollars. It seemed like a blog post made in heaven, but I decided to sit on it. I would have probably just written something sarcastic anyway so I let it go.
Then a month ago the GAO released another report about airport runway safety. Contained within those pages were the infamous notes about how much of the air traffic controller workforce was actually volunteering for overtime rather than having it assigned. Reading that report is what made me ask those NATCA folks what the heck was going in my Valentine’s Day post.
In all fairness, I was pummeled as a guy who was essentially clueless about the inner workings of the FAA and with a heavy heart, I went to the FAA’s Laura Brown, the agency’s Deputy Asst. Administrator for Public Affairs to ask for some clarification. She offered some thoughts which I posted a few days later by simply cutting a pasting her response with no editing of any kind. Obviously some of our readers had opinions that pretty quickly shined another light on the definition of “voluntary overtime.”
But something kept gnawing at me about the overtime data I read in that GAO report, as well as the rather simplistic analysis at the tail end of the document. I called the GAO’s Chuck Young and his response was quick. He put me on to Bob Homan at GAO who spent some time explaining their system. My thanks to those people for those quick responses.
However, I have to tell you that my jaw dropped – I know … again – when I learned that all the data the GAO used in it’s report came from FAA. So garbage data in produces garbage data out.
I know these reports are put together for members of Congress who apparently know very little about the industry hence the need to avoid the use of too many big words by GAO, but the reports contained very little of any substance I thought. Perhaps they were written just to keep Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) happy.
I was really left wondering about those nice folks at GAO. Do you guys have any idea how silly some of these reports look to the rest of us? How can we possibly believe anything you say now that we realize all you do is grab data from some agency for your reports? Many of us thought you were actually conducting some research of value before you wrote these reports.
And here’s another kicker … wasn’t the GAO the agency that told us the FAA stinks at gathering data to support anything? Then why in the world are you using that very same data?
So how much money did all of this worldly analysis cost the taxpayers you might be asking?
Don’t know. GAO says they don’t divulge that kind of information.
I think I’ll go back to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle when I want to read some truly critical analysis. GAO reports are now going directly into my junk-mail folder where they belong.