When They Break Out The Cartoon Airliners, You Know It's
This has to be one of the oddest news items to
cross the ANN desk so far this year... if only it weren't true. The
Alliance for Aviation Across America slammed the Air Transport
Association Tuesday, for what the user fee opposition group says is
a misleading advertisement that began running last week on
television screens at airports around the country.
According to the Alliance, the computer-animated spot shows
large commercial aircraft and small aircraft, apparently stuck on a
runway. The ad begins with a "young"-looking cartoon
commercial airliner in line with several
other, "older" planes, asking "Hey, what's the
Later in the ad, a grandfather-like cartoon commercial
airliner (that bears a strong resemblence to a DC-3,
and gets our vote as the character most likely to
be reproduced as an ATA-approved plush children's toy --
Ed.) complains "that hotshot there is clogging up our skies."
-- referring to a small corporate jet nosing its way
past the larger planes, saying "Coming through -- I've got a
foursome here with an early tee time."
"There is twice as many as them as us nowadays," the DC-3
One of the talking airliners then points out that "under rules
set in the '70s, [corporate planes] are only paying 6% of the taxes
to run the air traffic control system."
The ad ends with a cowboy hat-wearing 747 (it's heading
to Dallas, after all) admonishing its younger companion
"...the way it works is we pay, and they play."
Apart from the likelihood no one on the ATA's marketing team
will ever work for Pixar, the Alliance says the message of the ad
is also completely and utterly untrue.
"The visuals and dialogue in the ad clearly and deceptively
attempt to mislead the viewer into believing that commercial,
passenger aircraft are backed up on the runway because of
congestion caused by small aircraft, and that small aircraft
somehow get preferential treatment at airports and don’t pay
for costs imposed on the system," the Alliance tells ANN. "As the
facts... clearly show, that couldn't be farther from the
The Alliance notes at the top 10 busiest airports in the US,
small aircraft make up less than four percent of all aircraft
operations. The group cites findings by the Department of
Transportation, that show almost all flights delays are due
to reasons directly attributable to commercial airline
business practices -- specifically, over-scheduling.
Not only that, the notion that any plane can "cut" in front of
any other is completely false, since the FAA mandates that no
aircraft can "cut off" other aircraft on runways or in landing,
unless it is due to emergency, notes the Alliance.
The group isn't the only entity that viewed the ATA ad with
incredulity, and rising bile.
The National Business
Aviation Association sent a letter last week to CNN, requesting the
advertisement be pulled from the news channel's airport
"First, the Network's standards require that advertising be "in
accordance with the highest industry standards, truthful and not
misleading," NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen writes. "The ATA
advertisement clearly does not meet that standard; to the contrary,
the ad is false and deceptive."
"As DOT's former Inspector General, my office reported numerous
times on airline customer service and the worsening problem of
airline flight delays, often at the request of Congress and the
Secretary of Transportation," says Ken Mead, who resigned from
the DOT in January 2006. "Frankly, I found the airlines' new ad
disappointing and quite misleading. As they have in the past,
the airlines attempt to blame others for their own flight
"This time, they try to blame general aviation which is
inaccurate and not borne out by the facts," Mead continues. "The
fact is that the airlines created the hub and spoke system; it is
the airlines who now use that same system to schedule an impossibly
large number of flights to arrive and depart from the same place at
roughly the same times of day -- much more than the system can
handle all at once, and their schedules generally are based on the
assumption of good weather, which often is not the case."
Patrick Forrey, president of the National Air Traffic
Controllers Association, called the ATA's assertion that private
planes receive preferential treatment from ATC "ridiculous."
"Corporate traffic is
not the reason for system delays," Forney tells ANN. "The airlines,
much like the FAA, have gutted their staffing levels and trimmed
the margin of error down to an unprecedented low level so that even
the slightest hiccup in their plans can set off a massive wave of
delays due to 'rush hour' scheduling and a hub-and-spoke
Forney maintains severe weather accounts for over 70 percent of
delays, "and the rest is either airline staffing woes, air traffic
controller staffing shortages or the airlines' own operations."
A request for comment by Aero-News late Tuesday afternoon was
not returned by ATA staff by press time.
ANN E-I-C Note/Opinion: I'm not sure what
upsets me more about this most recent airline attack on GA -- that
they used such a childish concept to communicate a complex and
serious issue... or the outright dishonesty that oozes from this
blatantly misleading effort. That this comes from an industry that
abused so much of its personnel, and has conducted itself so
shamefully, should not surprise anyone. However; the sheer
foolishness of this attempt to sway public opinion is not just
staggering, but further proof that the brain-trust controlling the
airline industry's money/power grab is both intellectually
bankrupt as well as morally bankrupt.
Would you trust people this foolish and misleading to be
responsible for the safety and well-being of your family and
I, for one, do not. -- Jim Campbell, ANN E-I-C