Congress: FAA Bill = 120,000 Jobs. Do the Math!

I was watching Wolf Blitzer earlier this week and he was interviewing an administration official about the possibility of a double dip recession.  Clearly, the administration is concerned about this, as are most knowledgeable observers. 

I found myself yelling at the TV.  There is a bill in Congress that will create at least 120,000 jobs a year for three years at NO cost to the federal treasury and without any increases in federal taxes.  It is called FAA Reauthorization.  Both houses of Congress have passed this legislation.  It is past time to get this to the president’s desk.  

Congress comes back week after next.  The remaining issues should be easy to solve.  Especially if the focus is economic growth with no increase in the deficit.  There is NO other bill currently before Congress that can accomplish all these things.  The bill also includes important safety and other provisions. 

I’ve heard recently that lobbyists for certain airlines are telling people openly that they do NOT want a reauthorization bill to pass.  What is it about 120,000 jobs per year that they oppose? 

CREATE JOBS.  IMPROVE AIR SAFETY.  IMPROVE THE TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM.  HELP PASSENGERS.  PROMOTE GROWTH.  PASS FAA REAUTHORIZATION.

A Native Knows that ‘Jersey Shore’ Isn’t Real

“Life is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.”  St. Augustine 

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
- Innocents Abroad (Mark Twain) 

I am very fortunate to have a job that allows/requires me to travel fairly extensively.  In 2010 alone, I’ve visited 18 states, two Canadian provinces (about to see a third), five countries and four continents.  Sometimes I work when I travel.  Sometimes, I visit famous or historical sites.  Sometimes, I visit people.  Every time, I learn something. 

The putting green at Ike's farm outside Gettysburg.

Most recently, I’ve spent time in New Jersey, on the shore, visiting family.  My wife and I spent a great night in Cape May (stayed at the Dormer House, highly recommend it).  We went earlier this week to Gettysburg to see the Eisenhower farm and the Battlefield Museum (we toured the battlefield last time).  We stopped at the Catoctin Orchard Market to get one of the best cherry pies you’d every want to eat. 

One of the reasons I really enjoy what I do is that the success of our industry means that millions can experience these and other sites and activities.  Those millions also have the opportunity to see and experience people from across the country and around the world.  Whatever stereotypes people have about others can wilt away after a little travel. 

There is much commentary these days that our culture and our political discourse have been coarsened by a lack of understanding and appreciation of the views, perspectives and experiences of others.  This leads people on all sides to conclude that those with whom they disagree are wrong and that their views are illegitimate; it leads people to question the motives of those with whom they disagree, it leads people to conclude that someone who does something a different way must necessarily be doing it wrong. 

The Boardwalk at night in Seaside Heights, N.J.

I thought about this while I was in New Jersey, and especially after my kids went to Seaside Heights to have some fun on the boardwalk and they ran into cast and crew from the truly hideous show Jersey Shore. Anyone who has never been to New Jersey might believe that everyone behaves the way those folks do, especially if they are of a certain ethnic extraction, and especially if their “exposure” to the place consists of such trash as that show.  If you go to New Jersey you can find some folks who seem a lot like Snooki (my kids found the real thing).  But you don’t have to look hard to find a lot of other folks and places that bear no resemblance.  And that’s true no matter where you go. 

So, take the time to travel and to “read more than one page.”  And when you do travel, challenge yourself to find something or someone who goes against the grain of whatever stereotype you might have had about that place.  And, then think about all that whenever you are tempted to question someone’s views or motives or way of life simply based on some stereotype.

Another Year, Another Great FAC Conference

I spent the first part of the week in Tampa at the Florida Airports Council (FAC) meeting. Many states have airport organizations, but Florida is widely seen as the gold standard. Indeed, several state organizations have consciously tried to emulate what they do down there. The FAC conference is the third largest airport conference in the country (behind ours and that of AAAE) and one of the largest in the world. I must say I was very impressed.

They were nice enough to ask me to come down and make a few remarks and moderate a panel on air traffic control. I tried to spend my time seeing as many of our airport members and our World Business Partner/Associate members as I could. There were certainly a lot of them there. FAA had a good presence as did the Florida Department of Transportation, which really seems to realize the great asset airports are to the Florida economy.

Several of ACI-NA’s past and former chairs either work in Florida or once did. People like Louis Miller, Kent George, Steve Grossman, Rick Piccolo, John Clark and Frank Miller (our incoming chair). Ana Sotorrio, who recently retired from Miami and is a past chair of FAC has been a real leader in ACI-NA’s government affairs efforts and in our work to improve international passenger facilitation. The fact that so many industry leaders come out of Florida is no accident; the FAC prepares them well for industry leadership.

My congratulations to Bill Johnson, the executive director of FAC, and Clara Bennett, FAC’s president, for a successful conference and another great year.

Remembering Ted Stevens and the Alaska Accident

I’ve just returned from the Florida Airports Council annual conference in Tampa. It is a great event and I plan to write about it, but that will have to wait.

Former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens.

While in Tampa we received news about the plane crash in Alaska that killed former Senator Ted Stevens. Senator Stevens was a giant not just in Alaska and in the Senate, but also in the aviation community. From his perches on the Commerce and Appropriations Committees, he greatly influenced the aviation industry and the public policies that have helped shape it. Obviously, his name will always be on the Ted Stevens International Airport in Anchorage, and so will live on in that tangible way there, but all the other ways he influenced aviation should not be forgotten. I will always remember the one time I testified before his committee, on security matters. I was on my toes the entire time because I knew how well prepared he would be, and how tenacious. Ted Stevens. RIP.

NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe. Photo credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls.

Sean O'Keefe, former NASA administrator, survived the crash.

The Alaska accident had a more personal dimension for me in that one of my first friends in Washington three decades ago was Sean O’Keefe, the former NASA Administrator who survived the accident. Sean and I worked together for Senator Johnston very early in our careers. Even then, you could see that his future was bright. He combines intelligence and judgment in a way most people think they do, but few ever achieve. He’s also a hell of a lot of fun to be around. He and his wife, Laura, drove my wife and I to the airport the morning after our wedding and we helped one another move into the first houses we ever owned.  He is one of two people I didn’t go to college with who call me by my college nickname. His career trajectory was a much steeper climb than mine, and took him to several jobs outside of Washington, and we fell out of touch for some years. But we had run into each other at a Washington Nationals game last month and recently had exchanged emails about getting together some time soon. I am so grateful that will be possible and hope that he and his son and the other survivors will recover quickly. And, while most of the attention has focused on Senator Stevens and on Sean, I hope we will all remember and keep in our thoughts and prayers all of the other people killed and injured.

“American Recovery” = FAA Reauthorization

I’m back home after a driving trip of 3,000 miles that included 9 different states.  I saw easily a hundred, perhaps two hundred, projects along the way. I saw lots of those stimulus money signs. In the hotels I stayed in (5 Hampton Inns) I saw dozens of families, Little Leaguers, softball players and vacationers. All good signs. But clearly more needs to be done to promote the growth of the economy.

One of the many stimulus signs passed on the highway.

Last Wednesday I read an article in The Washington Post that the administration is going to be focusing on promotion of manufacturing as a way to stimulate further economic growth since the chance of passing any further stimulus spending is negligible. I don’t know much about manufacturing promotion, but something caught my eye: included in all this was the promotion of the building of roads and bridges and other infrastructure.

There is a large economic growth promotion bill pending in Congress right now. It would create tens of thousands of direct jobs every year (120,000 per year, we estimate), with many more indirectly created. There is absolutely no impact on the federal deficit. Everything is either already paid for or would emanate from the local Passenger Facility Charge user fee. It is called FAA Reauthorization. The old law has been temporarily extended 15 times over for nearly three years. The temporary extensions stunt job growth and stunt economic activity.

The administration should be making passage of the FAA bill their top economic priority. As should Congress.  Jobs. Growth. No impact on the deficit. I worked for three of the most successful American politicians of the last half century. All of them would love to have run on that platform. Let’s get it done.

Tarmac “Malaise”: Gone for Good?

In the days leading up to, and immediately after, the implementation of the Department of Transportation’s tarmac delay rule, I was constantly asked how I thought it would work. Didn’t I think there would be lots of cancellations? Didn’t I think this was a solution in search of a problem? One cynic asked whether we were supporting it as a way (somehow) to add to airports’ food and beverage revenue?

My answer was always that airlines and airports would work together to find ways to adjust to the rule. I admit a certain amount of hope and faith were involved in the answer, but I did believe that this would happen.

Planes waiting on the tarmac: a thing of the past?

An article in Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal by Scott McCartney, along with figures released by DOT and anecdotal experience, indicates my hopes and my faith were well placed. As McCartney notes, “…airports and airlines have worked hard to put systems into place to comply with the new rule. In the end, passengers may get more reliable transportation.”

Most regulations like this are designed to react to some extreme examples of distress and are designed, by nature, to influence behavior. Seems to be working that way, so far. For one, I am not surprised that my industry has stepped up to the challenge, and given past experience with rules like this in a variety of other industries, I am not surprised the airlines have either.

I think this is a time when airports and airlines can be proud of how they’ve responded to this challenge.

The Great Midwest and Hoover’s Legacy

I’m spending a weekend in the great midwest, while my wife has a reunion with her high school friends in Chicago.

Whenever I travel I am amazed at all our country has to offer and proud of the role airports play in that. I spent a night in Moline, Illinois at a very nice Hampton Inn right at the Quad City Airport. As I like to do on these trips, I went to a local minor league baseball game. The team is the Quad City River Bandits and they play in Davenport, Iowa. If you EVER get a chance to see a game there you should do it. They play in a place called Modern Woodmen Park, a great old ballpark right on the Mississippi. After the game they treated us to a great fireworks display. Quite something.

At the game I saw Bruce Carter who runs the Quad Cities airport in Moline. Bruce is a leader in our industry, just like his predecessor Kent George who now runs Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. Kent is the only living person to have chaired both ACI-NA and AAAE. Bruce was on our board the last three years and is in line to chair AAAE in two years.  The Quad Cities are fortunate to have had such leadership.

The birthplace of President Herbert Hoover in West Branch, Iowa

I am writing this on Saturday while having lunch at a local spot in West Branch, Iowa. In my continuing quest to visit all the presidential gravesites I have come here to pay my respects to Herbert Hoover. Hoover did not respond well to the test of presidential leadership during the Depression, but he was a great man nonetheless. His work to feed millions in Europe after World War I is well documented; there are tens of millions of their children and grandchildren who literally owe their existence to Hoover. President Truman called on the former President to assist with a similar project after World War II. Hoover was an active Secretary of Commerce in the 20′s and many of his initiatives bear fruit today, such as his push for standardization (that you can plug your cell phone charger into the wall of any home or hotel is but one manifestation of the importance of standards).

The memorial grave for President Hoover and his wife, Lou Henry

Hoover had a view of public service, and the place of ego, that is unfortunately seen as old-fashioned. After JFK was assassinated, the 88-year-old former president offered his help to LBJ in any capacity needed, including “office boy.” We could use a bit more of that attitude today.

The Hoover Museum compares quite well with that dedicated to Harry Truman. I strongly recommend a visit if you are in the area.