February 26, 2013

IBD Editorial Debunks LaHood’s ‘Fight Delays’ Lament About Sequestration

Doing the kind of reporting the establishment press would be doing if it were something other than the collection of presidential supplicants it has become, an Investor’s Business Daily editorial Monday evening completely refuted outgoing Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s claim that a $600 million “cut” (really “a reduction in projected spending”) would hurt the Federal Aviation Administration so badly that flight delays would be an inevitable result. One suspects that similar analyses of other agencies would also reveal that the fears expressed by “President Armageddon” (the Wall Street Journal’s recent nickname for President Obama) have little if any basis in fact — if one bravely assumes that the administration isn’t hell-bent on inflicting the maximum amount of visible pain if sequestration indeed comes to pass.

As I’ve said often, there’s far more of what really amounts to legitimate fact-based reporting (as opposed to White House stenography) in IBD and Wall Street Journal editorials than you’ll find in most of the establishment press’s so-called “straight news reporting” on the same topics. As far as the FAA is concerned, IBD shows that all the agency would have to do is redeploy its existing resources — something which obviously should have been done long ago — and should ultimately privatize the entire operation, as Canada has successfully done (bolds are mine):

Debunking The Myth That Sequester Cuts Will Cause Flight Delay

… Because of those (seqestration) cuts, he said, the department will have to furlough flight controllers, leading to “delays of up to 90 minutes during peak hours” at major airports.

It will also have to close more than 100 air traffic control towers, and preventive maintenance and runway repairs “might not be possible.”

… But LaHood, taking his cues from Obama, is needlessly trying to panic the public.

Back in 2000, the FAA handled 23% more air traffic with fewer flight controllers than it employs today, according to the Department of Transportation’s own inspector general, who added this raises “questions about the efficiency of FAA’s current controller workforce.”

Either air traffic controllers have gotten far less efficient over the past 13 years, or the FAA could get by with about 3,400 fewer of them — without affecting the quality of air travel one bit. Cutting out those excess controllers would get LaHood more than halfway to the $600 million he has to cut from the FAA’s budget.

And while LaHood ominously talks about closing 100 control towers, what he doesn’t say is that these towers should have been closed long ago.

In fact, Bloomberg News reports the FAA itself identified more than 100 “zombie towers” that handle so few flights they should be cut back or closed.

… instead of all the wailing and gnashing of teeth, LaHood could use the current budget cuts as an opportunity to do what Canada did 17 years ago when it also faced a severe budget crunch: fundamentally reform the air traffic control system.

Instead of a government-run agency, a private nonprofit called Nav Canada now runs Canada’s air traffic control, with user fees rather than federal funds covering the costs. Today, Nav Canada operates with 25% fewer workers than under the old government system, despite a 50% increase in traffic.

The Obama administration is apparently so wedded to the status quo that it’s willing to let the nation’s air traffic system become ever more uncompetitive on the world stage rather than even consider the idea of reforming it in any way. Call it “Hope (no one notices our bloat) and (no) change.”

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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