Sunday, April 21, 2013

Are Drivers as Passionate About Stop Signs?

Each and every one of us has a few stop lights or signs in our lives that make zero sense.  You know the ones I’m talking about.  They restrict the flow of traffic and often exist in areas of low volume.  Close your eyes and think of that place you always have to stop when you could safely continue moving and I’m sure you’ll get a little agitated.   But why do they bother you so?
Following are my guesses as to why.
They are unnecessary.  They exist because one person didn’t pay attention and there was a wreck.  Or maybe a “good intentioned” citizen proclaimed we needed a stop light there to keep others safe (because the area scares them).  And quite possibly, it was a guess by an engineer as to what may be needed at the intersection.  Ultimately though, and for whatever reason, they are senseless, useless, restrict the free flow of traffic, cost money to maintain, and therefore generate moving violations (tickets) to pay the bills.  Am I right?  Was that close?
Well then I have to ask, if your local government decided times were tight and, in order to trim costs, they were going to remove unnecessary stop lights and signs by turning them into yield signs or round-a-bouts, what would your reaction be?
Think about it.  Can you imagine your local government actually trimming costs?  Furthermore, would you be in shock if their method to accomplish this was to remove over-bearing government oversight of citizens?  And finally, assuming those things had been decided, can you imagine the American Sports Car Club protesting their removal?  NO?  Really?  Hmmmm, then why are all our aviation groups clamoring to keep all these damn CONTROL towers?
I believe the most likely answer to this perplexing question is this; the board of directors of our groups are little more than microcosms of Senate and House committees; each individual member playing the game in a manner that will serve them, not their constituents, best.  A great example of this is NBAA.
Have you wondered why NBAA would so strongly support saving of all these towers?  There are many possible reasons.  First, it could be a tit for tat political publicity stunt from a group that claims to disagree with pretty much everything President Obama does.  It is possible NBAA believes the typical corporate or charter pilot is incapable of safely flying without ATC oversight?  The group may have decided USER FEES are actually a good thing.  It’s also possible Ed Bolen is supporting this position in an effort to build his political resume for a position he knowingly covets; FAA Administrator.  There is the chance this is nothing more than evidence aviation is lost for good.  Or again, maybe NBAA is out of touch with its membership.  
As for the reasons mentioned above, with mascots like Warren Buffet, it’s possible it is nothing more than a protest done for political appearance.  I have to believe NBAA thinks better of its corporate and charter pilots.  Surely NBAA understands someone has to pay for these towers.  Mr. Bolen does want the administrator’s position.  Most groups are out of touch with their members in the same way our federal representatives are.  And, if members support this aviation is lost, the last aviator nears, and so goes the freedom of aviation.  But most likely, NBAA is simply out of touch with its members; something every member of every aviation group has become accustomed to.
As for me, I’m torn on the tower issue.  Some of the best controllers I have known, many of them being among the best people in aviation, work at these towers.  Yet clearly a large percentage of these towers are unnecessary to aviation, are expensive to operate, and do nothing more than restrict the free flow of traffic and offer the increased potential for violations.  They are “that stop sign” which aggravates you so much.
Yes, I understand closing the towers, along with the other disproportional cuts on all things aviation, are nothing more than a continuation of politics as usual.  Sometimes though while trying to poke you in the eye, your enemy accidentally does you a favor.  The closing of many of these towers would be such a gift.  Their closing is the rollback of government, a reduction of costs, and a great boost to the freedom of flight.  But there are all those controllers, many of which we like so much; what about them?
Is it possible aviation has room for them elsewhere?  Are there companies out there willing to talk to them?  What options do they have?  Admittedly I do not know, and because of this I would love to hear from any of you who work at these contract towers.  It would be nice to find a solution that would both allow removal of most of these towers, perhaps over a larger time frame, without leaving you high and dry.  Ideas?
Finally, controllers aside, am I the one who is out of touch with aviation; is it truly so far gone that pilots would rather have a tower than not?
Click here for a map of the proposed tower closings.

Note:  Since writing this, the aviation community stepped up to demonstrate why the USA is in such a world of butt hurt.  Congratulations; you saved towers that weren't needed, expenditures which demand payment (can you say user fees?), and retained controlled airspace which does little but offer the opportunity for violations; genius.

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