FAA Gives Ruling Class Special Treatment

By Scott Spangler on April 25th, 2011

FAA-LogoAir traffic control has been under the magnifying glass of late, with most recent incident being the loss of separation between Michelle Obama’s C-40 (Boeing 737) and a C-17 cargo plane. I’m puzzled. Numerous reports, including the story in the Washington Post, said ATC managers “were unaware of the potential problem.” Tell me, did the FAA do away with the computer snitch that goes off with any loss of standard separation?

But I digress from my intended point: how the FAA addressed the situation that, I’m told by friends and acquaintances who are air traffic controllers, is neither rare nor dangerously frequent. ATC supervisors will now back up the computer snitch (assuming it’s still in place) by overseeing the controllers who handle the departure and approach of any airplane that carries the first lady or vice president. I’m sure congressmen are next to receive this special treatment.

One of them already has. Remember when Jim Inhofe, the republican senator from Oklahoma, landed his twin-engine Cessna last year on a closed runway at Texas’ Cameron County Airport? Through a Freedom of Information Act request, The Smoking Gun got the FAA documents about the incident. In short, Inhofe saw the big yellow X but decided to land anyway, scattering the construction crew at work on the pavement.

But that’s not the ugly part. If you or I had done this, the FAA would have lifted our tickets without hesitation, justifying this action with a long list of violations. What did Inhofe get? Before you answer, remember that Inhofe supports aviation in Congress and represents the state that’s home to the FAA training center and airman-medical certification branch.Yup, contrary to the orders guiding FAA inspectors, Inhofe got remedial training.

In his blog, James Fallows, an aviator and writer for The Atlantic, provides all of the details, which were provided by one of his readers. The key section of the thorough explanation is this, from the FAA Order covering remedial training: “Deliberate, willful violations, which involve gross negligence, recklessness, recidivism, or flagrant disregard of [the FARs], shall continue to be handled by the imposition of strong, legal enforcement actions. This is clearly an area where remedial training is inappropriate and would be ineffective.”

Safety is the FAA’s primary job, and enforcement is one of the tools it employs to maintain it. To the masses the FAA preaches one level of safety; like being pregnant or dead, either you are or you’re aren’t. And if you break the rules, you pay the documented price. Just ask the ATC guys who have lost their jobs, or soon will, for losing the battle with the sleep monster. So why don’t we get the same level of safety and enforcement as the people we’ve elected to work for our common good? When it comes to safety, aren’t we worth as much as they are? And shouldn’t they play by the same rules they enforce on us? –Scott Spangler


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9 Responses to “FAA Gives Ruling Class Special Treatment”

  1. Marvin Mathes Says:

    I have always felt that the appropriate way to handle infractions that are not willful or intentional is remedial training for the first offense. I am truly disappointed with the adversarial position that the FAA has taken in regards to infractions. Most FAA inspectors that I have met are good people, often with a background in GA, with a lifetime of stories of rules that they have broken without consequence. It seems that it would be better to save a pilot (remedial training), than to break a pilot (suspension or worse). Every pilot will do something stupid at some point. We are only human. It does not seem reasonable that we are not judged by our peers, but by perfect people who never make mistakes.

    As far as the go around with Michelle Obama, we all understand that we are taught go-arounds for a reason. In a perfect world, we would never have to use them. The action of the FAA, by requiring a supervisor to be present for certain individuals, does indeed show the importance of the “ruling class”. The rest of us are simply expendable.

  2. Marc Says:

    Good luck with getting the “ruling class” to play by the same rules as us. They don’t, and won’t in regard to pay raises, medical coverage, retirement accounts, or any number of other perks they grant themselves.

  3. JetAviator7 Says:

    If anyone doesn’t understand that there is a ruling upper class in this country they are not paying attention.

    The same rules and privileges should belong to all os us.

  4. Simon Says:

    Surely Inhofe would have been prohibited by ATC not to land on the runway prior to the approach?

    Sure there is stupid things a pilot can do but that is knowingly negligent.

  5. Marvin Says:

    I forgot to comment on Senator Inhofe. It seems obvious that he blatantly ignored the rules that the rest of us are expected to follow, and in the process, endangered people on the ground, his passengers, and himself. There is little doubt that the FAA would not have been so kind to other pilots. Not to get all political, but these things will never change unless elected officials and government employees are reminded of who they work for.

  6. @williamAirways Says:

    Government = King/Queen
    Billionaire = Nobles
    Millionaire = Knights
    The rest of us = Serfs

  7. Jess Caldern Says:

    It happens all over the world…here in Spain is exactly the same, politicians are at the beginning of any chain of command, so aviation authorities are always in one of those two possible positions: they have been assigned to the charge by “their frend” the politician, or they were in the charge from long ago but under the decision power of their superior in the chain of command…wich is also the politician. If because he is his friend or his “boss” aviation officials as in other departments, are under the politician will.

  8. Rodney Hall Says:

    That you use the term Ruling Class in your title should indicate how far this “democratic-republic” has fallen in its attempt to make all people equal. Everyone should fall under the same rules.

  9. greyfox Says:

    Okay, just saw the new report that Air Force One had to go around in CT. Are more controllers being suspended???

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