10:08 PM

Chicago Stabs GA
in the Back...Again.


Average Joe and Jane on the street in Chicago probably doesn't spend much time thinking about aviation, and like most GA pilots, they detest flying on the commercial scheduled airlines just like the rest of America. But recently, we were reminded big time that the Editorial Board of the Chicago Tribune hates general aviation about as much as Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley.

Of course, any pilot with a soul surely remembers the infamous "Midnight Raid" on March 30-31, 2003, when Mayor Daley illegally and without notice, demolished Meigs Field, which has been called the "best-known single runway airport on the planet" by many.

AOPA reported the incident in their ePilot online newsletter of April 4, 2003:

"Mayor Richard M. Daley of Chicago launched his own shock and awe campaign in the wee hours Monday morning by using heavy equipment to tear up the runway of the city's historic lakefront airport, Merrill C. Meigs Field. City crews dug six huge Xs deep into the runway's surface, closing the airport and trapping 16 aircraft."
What has taken us all back to the Meigs disaster was a recent editorial in the Tribune that yet again seems to suggest that many in the mainstream media has zero respect for general aviation. Their suggestion to fix our airspace delays seems to have been spoon-fed to them by the ATA and the airlines:
"Long term, there are some answers to make air travel something better than a trip to the dentist: Spin off the air traffic control function of the Federal Aviation Administration into a free-standing government corporation that would get its revenue from user fees and have access to the capital markets...A privately funded system could more quickly raise the money through user fees. A privately funded agency could make those radical operational changes without the political pressures that hamstring the FAA, which is dependent on appropriations from Congress. Canada, Germany and other countries have moved to privatize air traffic control."
Only one MASSIVE problem with their logic: If you want to kill off GA for good, move to a privatized ATC system just like Germany's. Had the Tribune's Editorial writers Googled the subject, they could not possibly have missed this from AOPA's Thomas A. Horne. In a July, 2004 column, Horne reported exactly what user fees were generated on a trip in a 1964 Piper Twin Comanche from London's Biggin Hill Airport to a GA airport in Egelsbach, Germany. The flight involved multiple ILS landings and Eurocontrol ATC routings:
"Total cost of the day's flying in fees alone: at least $195.23. Add in the 19-percent value-added tax and the bill reached $232.32. But the final bill hasn't been received yet; the cost is likely to be much higher. And this doesn't even factor in the operating costs of the airplane itself."
In a recent Letter to the Editor published in the Tribune, AOPA President Phil Boyer summed it up when he said this:
"The Chicago Tribune’s proposed cure for what ails the nation’s air transportation system will instead probably kill one of the patients. In countries that have privatized air traffic control, general aviation—all flight activity except the airlines and the military—has been dramatically reduced and in some cases driven to the brink of extinction. In the U.S. that means severely damaging an industry responsible for $150 billion in annual economic activity and 1.3 million jobs."
Bottom line: Mainstream media outlets like the Tribune have no idea what impact GA has on the economy of this country. They think GA is just a few J3 Cubs out at some tiny field at the edge of town with a mission of hoisting old guys aloft to chase hamburgers. They do not see the layer upon layer of economic disaster that would come from an imposing user fee structure managed by a private corporation.

Yes, we all want to see NextGen come to fruition, but adding restrictive user fees to GA flights is not the answer. Fixing BushCo's version of the FAA, that is the answer.

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