Sometimes when things are really intense in Washington it is good to spend time outside the Beltway to see and feel what’s going on in the country. That’s what I’ve been doing this week.
I began the week in Lexington, Ky., visiting with their excellent airport director Eric Frankl and having a chance to see their beautiful airport. Tuning in to both the national and local media it was plain that the FAA shutdown is an important story outside the Beltway. People are concerned about the jobs and the implications for our national transportation system. They have many questions, many about safety. (I always assure them that the safety of the system is being maintained, while also pointing out that many of the cancelled projects would have safety benefits It is also a good chance to point out that these projects are paid for from dedicated revenue and that shutting down the FAA does not cut the deficit.)
I was in Lexington when my blog about the airlines raising fares to include the amount that would have been covered by the temporarily suspended ticket tax was posted. It generated a lot of comment, especially when on Monday night, the Los Angeles Times did a piece on it.
So, on Tuesday morning when I was touring the Louisville airport with their veteran airport director, Skip Miller, the blog came up in several conversations, including during a tour the great folks at UPS gave me of their operations center. The subject came up not just during the tour, and not just because of the blog. It is clear that the FAA is a concern of a number of people; it is also clear that no one “out here” understands why or how we could have come to this point. The FAA should be the basic business of government and to not have it authorized seems hard to understand.
I am in Champaign, Ill., now, visiting my wife’s family (they are a four-generation University of Illinois family). Yesterday, I was on a local station here, WDWS 1400, as part of a daily talk show, Penny for Your Thoughts, with a local broadcast legend, Jim Turpin. Jim was the broadcaster for Illinois sports teams for more than three decades and still does a daily, two-hour talk show. We had a wide-ranging discussion and a number of callers. We talked about the FAA shutdown, also about security and a number of other important topics. The shutdown has been covered here in the local press.
To be honest, many people wonder if we can’t even keep the FAA open, what hope do we have for a solution on the debt crisis (by the way, I recommend a piece written on the CNN web site by Fareed Zakaria about the debt limit and how it is a crisis of our own making). After 20 extensions, I was pretty sure we’d seen everything. Turns out, that was just the pre-game show.
We at ACI-NA have been very active these past several days working with our members to collect stories about the impact of the shutdown and getting that message to the Hill and to the press. We also use the opportunity to talk about the wonders performed by airports on a daily basis and what could be possible if we remove the Nixon-era economic shackles placed on airports by federal law. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is famous for saying never let a good crisis go to waste. The FAA shutdown never should have happened, but we are using the “opportunity” to tell the airport story and set the stage for better days to come.