Sequestration & Our DOT Secretary

By Robert Mark on February 28th, 2013

I was reading NATCA President Paul Rinaldi‘s remarks yesterday from his luncheon talk at the Washington Aero Club in advance of Friday’s “end of the world” or “no big deal” sequestration day depending on whom you believe . Pretty nice timing for a labor advocate to attend a DC forum to detail the industry ills that may be in store for us thanks to sequestration.

Towers may close, controllers may be taking unpaid days off and the flying public may well see the National Airspace System grind along much slower than usual. Of course, despite the rhetoric, my FAA sources tell me the details of what facilities will actually shut down, for how long and beginning when hasn’t yet been set in stone (late news now says some airports such as ORD may experience controller shortages after April 1) But still, what a mess. We really needed just a little more uncertainty in this industry didn’t we?

US_House_Committee - jetwhine.comNo matter which side of the aisle you support however, you must agree that Congress created this mess. Trouble is we’re the ones who will experience the pain, not them, despite the lofty speeches from outgoing DOT Secretary Ray LaHood trying to sound as if he feels our pain. Oh please. His inability to take a stand for our industry is part of the reason we’re in this mess.

This White House, like the team run by George Bush, is clueless about the aviation industry, whether we’re talking general aviation, the airlines or business aviation. Not only are they clueless, but they care very little about becoming any smarter. I don’t know how the GA Caucus folks have the patience they do, but I applaud their efforts in the face of a stiff cold wind from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

But imagine for just a second if we had an industry advocate working with the caucuses, someone who understood aviation and was willing to visit the White House and explain our value proposition? OK Mr. LaHood, we know you’ve filled your papers. How about an early departure from the DOT HQ? You being there or not will make little diference anyway. I defy anyone to cite a single example of policy Mr. LaHood pushed through during his tenure that helped the aviation industry. I say that not because he’s a Republican in a blue administration, but because LaHood had no transportation experience when he arrived in 2009 and  that lack of experience has hurt us all.

The industry needs to get busy and convince the White House to choose a qualified Secretary of Transportation … soon.

Personally, I think the NTSB’s Deborah Hersman would fit the bill pretty nicely. She’s experienced AND she’s not afraid to confront the powers that be.

If you agree with me or have someone better, write — no call — your legislator … today. The real threat we face in the aviation industry is a plethora of concerned aviators who see it as someone else’s job to make their voices heard to fix aviation. NBAA, nor AOPA, nor EAA nor GAAC can do this alone. They us to work with them.

People around the globe are watching our industry too, wondering just what people who claim to love democracy almost as much as their kids will do next. I had a chat the other day with Rob Sachs, the Voice of Russia’s bureau chief in Washington about sequestration and the DOT. Give it a listen, then go to the phone. 

Rob Mark, publisher

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