I’ve been back from Singapore for a week. Two things stick out. One, it is a bit harder to recover from these trips now than even just a couple of years ago. Two, when I said in Denver at Airport Cities that our competitors were moving forward building new, more modern and efficient infrastructure, and we were being left behind; well, I was even more right than I knew at the time.
So many people came up to me at the ACI Asia-Pacific meeting who had either read or heard the Denver speech, or heard me ask a question of one of the speakers that made the same points. They confirmed that this is what is happening. If we do not think that these airport leaders around the world do not have global aspirations, we are deluding ourselves. And I can’t say they are unhappy that policies in the United States hold us back while they move forward. On the way over I read Zbigniew Brzezinski’s book “Strategic Vision.” He makes the same point in that book.
U.S. carriers tend to think that if it is new and shiny then it is too expensive and they shouldn’t pay for it. I think they are, usually, shortsighted in this; I think their interests are better served by newer and more efficient infrastructure. But at least I understand it, on a basic level. What I do not understand is the U.S. Government, both executive and legislative branch, not really understanding this. Henry Kissinger is fond of saying the role of a statesman is to represent the future to the present. This is not being done right now in the United States on aviation infrastructure.
It has been a sad couple of weeks in aviation. Andy Steinberg, who served as FAA general counsel and U.S. D.O.T. Assistant Secretary, died on May 20 at the young age of 53. Andy oversaw the critically important negotiations that led to an open skies agreement with the European Union, a rare example in the past few years where a statesman did represent the future to the present. He also worked for American Airlines when, in 1993, they won a landmark predatory pricing case. That case was decided during the deliberations of the Baliles Commission; I recall it was one we had our eye closely on. That case had a major impact on the business of aviation. Andy was also the one who recruited me to join the board of the International Aviation Club a few years ago. Jeff Shane, for whom I have the utmost regard says that Andy was “one of the greatest aviation lawyers of his generation.” Andy Steinberg, R.I.P.
Ernie Boston was a member of the Pasco, Washington, airport commission for 17 years. He was an active and constant presence in the ACI-NA Commissioners Committee; always sitting in the front, asking questions and greeting other attendees. He was a sweet man, a real gentleman. He cared a great deal about his airport and about the industry. His background was in real estate and he long ago saw the potential of this for the business health of the airport. Ernie was very active in all manner of civic and economic development activities in his town; he knew that the airport is an economic engine and was determined to make the best of it. Ernie was a great guy and I will miss him. Ernie Boston, R.I.P.
When I was a senior at Notre Dame, our school had one of the great sports years in NCAA history to that time. The football team won a national championship (the QB was Joe Montana) and the basketball team went to the Final 4 (the soccer team I played on went 16-1-1 but no one talks much about that J). A key presence on that basketball team was a freshman named Orlando Woolridge. That guy could move and he could jump. There were other perhaps better known names on that team (Bill Laimbeer and Kelly Tripuka for instance) but he was key to the success of that team, and a lot of fun to watch. He went on to a nice NBA career, averaging 16 points per game and coached in the WNBA He died over the weekend of a heart ailment and I was very sad to hear about it. Orlando Woolridge, for helping make senior year so memorable, R.I.P.