DOT Aviation Advisors Missing the Point

By Scott Spangler on November 23rd, 2009

FastLane In a recent Fast Lane post, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood wrote about the first meeting of the new aviation advisory committee that reports directly to him. Its members hail from airports, air carriers, management, labor, manufacturers, general aviation, and consumer groups.

Their mission? “To examine the industry, its competitiveness, and its ability to address evolving transportation needs, challenges, and opportunities of the global economy,” he writes. “This is not going to be just another advisory committee, and I am not commissioning some report to fill space on my bookshelf. This committee will make a difference.”

Uh huh. Sure. If you say so. I was born a skeptic and started polishing this trait to a professional sheen at the J-school in Missouri—the Show Me state. Around the time I graduated, 1982, is when America started its transformation into what it has become today, a transformation that has made me (and many others) cynical citizens.

This effort to “fix aviation” is exactly like the ongoing effort to reform, to fix, healthcare in this nation. Neither one has anything to do with the people they supposedly serve—passengers, pilots, or patients. It’s all about making money for the companies that provide services. 

LaHood LaHood’s post nods at this fact: “This country has an aviation system that is losing billions of dollars, shedding jobs, and using an aging infrastructure. It’s time to get to work fixing it.”

The root problem, in aviation as it is in America, is what companies do with that money. Back in the day, when customers and the workforce mattered, company leaders had the foresight to reinvest a good part of their profits to improve their goods, services, and industry infrastructure.

When corporate czars assumed control of America back in the 1980s, “the shareholder” is what mattered most. (And is it a coincidence that big blocks of company stock were part of the pay packages for most on the senior management team?) Reinvesting in the company’s and industry’s future took a back seat to the size of the next quarter’s dividend check.

There was even more money to be made for the shareholders by buying other companies, selling off the redundant pieces—and firing the people who did those jobs—and cutting every other expense to bone. And people, not just Secretary LaHood, wonder why aviation—and the nation as a whole—is in such a state?

This myopic me-first mindset has been the American way for roughly three decades, and I wonder how this advisory committee is going to change it. If healthcare reform is any indication, they will ignore the underlying problem and come up with a NexGen “fix” that digs ever deeper into our empty pockets. – Scott Spangler

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11 Responses to “DOT Aviation Advisors Missing the Point”

  1. Stephen Ruby Says:

    You neglected to mention the sad but true Product Liability issue that plagued manufacturers in the mid-80’s and the lawyers who won absurd lawsuits with anything General Aviation.

    Let’s look at for example,the wife who sued Beechcraft for $285 Million dollars in 1985…and won!! She claimed the manufacturer was at fault for her husbands death in a Beech Debonair that he flew into IMC without an instrument rating.

    Then Russ Meyer of Cessna in the same time-frame claims product liability was the cause for Cessna to shut down all single engine assembly. Not true, that was the result of poorly manufactured fire-walls that Cessna somehow over looked and was the subject of an
    article written in Business and Commercial Aviation.

    The shut-down affected 80,000 airplanes from the 172 to the brand new Turbo Centurion. The advocate aviation attorney Arthur Alan Wolk certainly was behind GA, right??

    The FAA should be a separate entity and not part of DOT, they neither have the fortitude or manpower to deal with all the bureaucratic madness that plagues our industry. When a new Beech Baron G58 goes out the door for something like $1.2 Million.

    We need to look who is the benefactor for the survival of GA, and it is not the DOT.

  2. Scott Says:

    Product liability is a symptom of a national avoidance of personal responsiblity. In all aspects of life, not just aviation, when something doesn’t go our way, or when it comes time to pay the consequences of something we’ve done, the solution is to not take responsibility for our decision but to blame it on someone else, and to get money for it, which ties right back into the insurance industry, which is where this conversation began.

  3. Bill Says:

    Amen, Scott.

  4. Robert Mark Says:

    I had not heard of this story in BC&A before Stephen. Any idea when that might of run?

  5. Stephen R. Says:

    I have it somewhere and I’ll dig it up, it was in 1985

  6. Bernard Says:

    An excellent article that hits the nail right on the head. Huge difference between defining the problem and solving it however. Not only aviation of course but numerous other interest groups are being adversely affected by the cancer that is growing in our government. Unless these groups join in a concerted effort apathy will continue to allow the scoundrels to flourish.

    The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money. — Alexis de Tocqueville 1835

  7. Stephen R. Says:

    You may want to go back to the late seventies when Airline deregulation took place and view what happened there, it allowed the Corporate raiders to disassemble the entire industry that has yet to fully recover. I would venture to say that what has been already said here is that there are some who lack honor, integrity, and respect. Time to get wise, as they say!!

  8. jeff Says:

    I remember way back when UAL bought the Westin or Western hotels.

    My dad, a UAL employee asked, “what do they know about the hotel business?”

  9. Stephen R. Says:

    Can you say Frank Lorenzo???

  10. Dale Kettring Says:

    I note that Mr. LaHood’s advisory panel includes several “advisors” from industry, including airlines. That being the case, how does the new instructions to remove most industry “advisors” from those panels?

    See the article at:

  11. Dale Kettring Says:

    Please excuse me.

    I meant to ask how the new instructions impact Mr. LaHood’s panel?

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