...And Here, Darn it, Are The Heartbreakers
by ANN News Editor Tom Patton
It is both the most "fun,"
and most difficult task, facing the ANN staff at the end of every
year -- determining who, or what, did the most to promote the cause
of aviation in the past 365 days... while also chastising those
people or entities that did all they could to undermine the many
successes the aerospace community has managed to accomplish.
Alas, 2010 saw more than its fair share of downers, aviation-wise.
Sure, "stuff" happens... but a few folks, issues, or entities
seemed to go out of their way to create problems for the world of
So... it is ANN's annual obligation to recognize a number of our
Aero-Heroes/Heartbreakers for 2010... in something of an informal
order -- Saving the 'best' for last.
Let us know what you think of our selections... whom YOU would
have liked be included, or omitted, from such a list. In the
meantime, we hope those who had something to do with this year's
selections think a little more positively about the welfare of this
industry, so that future lists become harder and harder to
Be it ignorance, arrogance or just plain incompetence, these
were the folks or topics that made our lot a whole lot more
difficult and immeasurably injured the aviation world in the past
Shame on those issues, folks, or groups that made our lot so
much tougher in 2010...
Aero-Heartbreakers: US Congress
The national legislative body was something of a mixed bag for
aviation this year. There were some successes, notably the
extension of the accelerated depreciation rules in the tax code
which was widely praised as a potential catalyst for new airplane
But one thing they couldn't do is pass a reauthorization measure
for the FAA, and the only real sticking point is nothing really to
do with aviation at all ... a labor provision that has become a
tug-of-war between UPS and FedEx Express.
The FAA has been operating on continuing resolutions since the
end of FY2007. What that means is, the agency has been funded at
the same level as that year. Through the course of the year, we
heard over and over that the House or the Senate had passed the FAA
reauthorization bill, but when it came to the all-important
conference committees, the issue of whether drivers for FedEx
Express should be allowed to organize in the same way as UPS
drivers stood in the way.
There's no way to know exactly how the lack of an authorization
bill for the FAA has affected things like moving forward with
NextGen. But the situation has gone on far too long, and we hope it
will be a priority for the incoming congress.
When Congress was paying attention to aviation, it wasn't
necessarily in a good way. A Texas Congressman reacted to an
incident in which an airplane was flown into a building in Texas in
a tax protest to calling for hearings into the "threat" posed by
private airplanes. The incoming chair of the House Transportation
Committee called the new pilot's license a "fiasco," and now an
NPRM to require a pilot's photo on his or her license after having
made the switch to a plastic license just last year ... a move
which will definitely dip into pilots' pockets.
The passage of the NASA authorization bill drew mixed reviews.
The proponents of the Constellation program said that cancelling it
would be money wasted, but commercial spaceflight backers were
pleased with the support for COTS and Commercial Crew.
Dithering continued over the F136 alternate engine for the F-35
Lightning II. Defense and administration official continued to say
that the program should be shelved, but representatives from areas
where GE is building and testing the F136 continued to get
Meanwhile, the body forced the issue of mandating crew rest and
set a minimum of 1,500 hours before a pilot can serve as First
Officer of a commercial flight, a rule that drew mixed reviews from
pilots and unions. The biggest concern was that increasing that
requirement from 250 to 1,500 hours would shut a lot of dedicated,
qualified, safe pilots out of the cockpits where they can build
hours while earning a living.
We know that the national legislative body can be an easy
target, and sometimes ... heck, most of the time ... when it comes
to legislation, slower is better. But with all of the supposed
concern about environmental issues, and NextGen offering a solution
that will help airlines, and aviation in general, use less fuel and
operate more efficiently, the lack of an FAA Reauthorization bill
-- primarily over a labor dispute -- lands our elected
representatives back on our "Heartbreakers" list. We sincerely hope
we're not writing this same column this time next year.
But we're not sure that's a bet we'd take.