Will there be sequestration? I don’t think so

I was at an aviation event the other day and ran into a friend who runs another aviation association.  Say something about sequestration, she asked.  Ok. Here are a few thoughts.

First, I strongly believe it will not happen.  That Congress and the president will figure something out.  For a whole variety of reasons, I think the climate is right for some sort of deal.capital dome

I do agree that if sequestration happens, NextGen would take a big blow.  This cannot be permitted to happen.  But pardon me for being a little jaded.  I’ve been working on air traffic control reform and modernization since 1993 when I authored a presidential commission report calling for satellite based navigation by 1997.  It didn’t happen then because certain interests didn’t want it and, frankly, the airlines did not care.

In the end, the best way to move this along is to change the way it is financed, allow access to capital markets, as proposed by our 1993 commission and so many others.  The real lesson from sequestration is that getting air traffic control modernization out of the usual Washington way of doing things is the best answer.

The same is true with airport infrastructure. Although the federal grant program is not impacted by sequestration, it just shows how unreliable Washington is as a partner.  We must allow airports more freedom to generate their own resources.

Bottom line.  Doubt it will happen, but I think sequestration really shows how we need less Washington in the matter of aviation infrastructure.

Just before I started writing this I learned of the death of Sen. Daniel Inouye.  Senator Inouye is the second longest serving senator ever, and one of the greatest Americans of the 20th century.  He was a true war hero, who left his arm on a battlefield in Europe during World War II.  He was a great patriot and senator, one of those people who knew how to get something done.  He was an important part of the Watergate Committee in 1973. Such was his integrity that, even though he was a Democrat, no one ever questioned his aggressive pursuit of the truth.  When I arrived in the Senate as a young staffer six years later, I could easily see the quality of this man.  Later, I had the honor of testifying before his committee.  And I still recall going to some ceremony in the Senate a few years ago, taking my seat and then looking up a moment later as Senator Inouye asked if he could sit next to me.  No pretense, no “great man” vibe.  Just one of the greatest people this country ever produced politely asking if a seat was taken and if he might be able to sit there.  I can’t stop smiling thinking about it.  What a great man.  They say his last word was “Aloha.” So I will say Aloha, Senator Inouye.

An Industry Veteran Has It Right

I was talking to a friend the other day, one who has been in the aviation industry a long time and worked with and for airlines for much of that time.  He expressed to me, unasked and unprompted, his concern with the airline industry’s initiative to enact a National Airline Policy rather than a National Aviation Policy.  How can we leave out all the other sectors, he wondered?  Where would this kind of approach leave us? On the outside, looking in, he guessed.

greg-blog-photoThat conversation turned my mind back to the speech Sen. Jay Rockefeller gave earlier this year to the Aero Club of Washington.  Sen. Rockefeller was lamenting the fact that it took so long to get an FAA bill enacted, and I should say it was an effort he poured his heart and soul into. With much justification, he said that the reason was the aviation industry never came together. He implored us not to let that happen again. That, in large part, is why the ACI-NA board passed a resolution favoring a National Aviation Policy, and specifically mentioned policies to promote every sector.

So, back to my friend, the airline veteran. How do you square what Sen. Rockefeller asked us to do with what the airline industry, as a group, is doing? You cannot. Dividing the industry makes no sense. As I have written before in this space, the only real thing that is keeping the aviation industry as a whole from moving together is the airlines’ unwillingness to engage on the issue of airport infrastructure. I know they like to point to various countries

So when will the airlines get the message and work with the rest of the industry?

around the world as having enlightened policies, but the point they miss is they have AVIATION policies not airline policies. They use policies to build and modernize airport infrastructure that can benefit airlines but are banned/limited here, partly because airlines have decided to cut off their nose to spite their face.

I continue to hope the entire aviation industry can come together. Airports are willing and I know most other sectors are willing as well.  So, why will the airlines not heed Sen. Rockefeller’s great advice and join the effort to come together?