What’s The Point of ‘Next-Gen’ If ‘Now-Gen’ Crashes and Burns? (Part 1) | Aero-News Network
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Fri, Sep 24, 2010

What’s The Point of ‘Next-Gen’ If ‘Now-Gen’ Crashes and Burns? (Part 1)

A Serious Look At The Obstacles We Face

Aero-Analysis/Commentary by James R. Campbell, ANN Editor-In-Chief/Rabble-Rouser

If God looked directly into your eyes and commanded, “I command that you be happy in this world, as long as you live.”
What would you do?

Richard Bach

I’ve been a fan of Richard’s since LONG before Jonathan Livingston Seagull… but the missive noted above has become one of the most profound questions I’ve considered over the past year. The results (such as they are) of those ruminations are part of an on-going process that you are witnessing here and now. And, I gotta tell you, it’s been a helluva process.

Whew… so much to say… where to start?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started this piece… and how many times, I’ve hit ‘delete’ or said ‘screw it’ and then forgot it about it for a few days or weeks. So, warts and all, here it is… convoluted, a little disorganized, but right from the heart… raw, aching, and unedited this one last time.

The last version went over 8000 words (and was NOT done), but this final version will be far briefer -- and while all the things I wrote will find their way into various pieces at some time or another, let’s just cut to the chase and get to the core of the issues we need to address if aviation is to have a future capable of supporting ‘Next-Gen’ efforts.

OK… Straight Stuff #1: Aviation is in deep trouble… and for a number of reasons…but waiting around for better times will only guarantee that those times may be put off… or possibly never happen at all. If we want a better industry, we have to quit sticking our heads in the sand and, instead, come out fighting. Few entities in this industry have confronted our issues honestly, or stuck their necks out to seek tough solutions to even tougher problems.

Straight Stuff #2: Washington is responsible for much of the problems we face… and no matter which side of the political aisle you favor, there is no question that there are more than enough idiots in DC to go around… but at the same time, expecting them to solve our problems is a fool’s errand. And yes, we are ALL partly at fault for the plight Washington has put us in… we elected them, we have been ineffective in communicating our needs and criticisms of their efforts, and we have rarely countered their idiocy as effectively as they foisted their nonsense upon us to begin with. If things are going to get better; we need to face Washington (and all manner of other factors and causes) down with courage, honesty, strength, and more effort than we have ever undertaken before. In other words, play time is OVER. NO MORE MR. NICE PILOT.

Straight Stuff #3: The fix for all our ills starts with the person you see in the mirror in the morning – each and every one of us. We can’t rely on “some other person” to fix all this,… we need to start with ourselves and pour our support, efforts, expertise, funds, votes, actions and voices into efforts that will support the positive changes this industry needs not only to recapture former glories, but to get a start on building itself into a new entity that can not only survive, but thrive. If you sit idly by and bitch and moan without getting involved, you deserve what you’ve been getting so far… a declining, failing industry that is destined to disappear under the weight of indifference, bureaucracy, expense, regulations and ignorance. We need each and every one of you... all of you. Every single dad-blasted aviator.

Straight Stuff #4: I have to take Number 3 as seriously, heck even more seriously, than the rest of you because of my experience as both an expert observer/reporter on this industry as well as a blooded (literally) aero-activist and aviation advocate (in other words, get off my ass and get even more active). And while I’ve done some work I’m rather proud of over the years, I have to admit to you here and now that my efforts over the last year or so (a year and a month, to be specific, for obvious reasons) have lacked the passion, expertise and direction they needed to be truly effective. I’ve had to look at myself honestly, quit licking my wounds and get on with living my life… especially in support of something that I care about so deeply—the world of aviation. Yes... I've lost something I loved so very greatly... but I can't ignore the rest of the things I care about if my life is going to be worth a damn from here on out. So... this is an apology for the fact that you folks have not seen my ‘A’ game in over a year and let you know in no uncertain terms that such crap stops now. I promise you that from here on out, I will put forth nothing less than my best effort… and as I do that, I’m going to implore each and every one of you to join me, help me, critique me, get in my face, teach me, what ever it takes to keep me and ANN on track. It’s time for “EXTREME” (but nonetheless professional) action… and you’ll get it from me. I promise.

OK… enough.

Let’s FIRST start identifying a number of Aero-Trials and Aero-Tribulations—problems, and issues that threaten our future… and work our way to the answers and opportunities that might be found to overcome them. I’ve got at least 20 of them (so far) and welcome you to comment on these concepts… and offer your thoughts, suggestions, feedback or otherwise identify other issues that deserve to be added to the list. In identifying and discussing these issues, we can then put turn our attention to setting forth with plans to seek the requisite solutions… and work with those in a realistic position to affect those solutions.

PLEASE Let me Me Hear From YOU!

How many live lifetimes without finding what they know and love?
It’s YOUR job to be sure that you’re not one of them.

Richard Bach

OK… in no particular order, let me present ANN’s initial list of Aero-Trials and Aero-Tribulations—issues and concepts we must face, survive and correct if aviation is to survive.

Aero-Legal Insanity

We live in an overtly litigious society where school systems are removing swing-sets from playgrounds because of the threat of lawsuit and even a cup of coffee now comes with a legal disclaimer… while the world of aviation has far worse abuses in its history. This industry has lost BILLIONS because of a legal system that has run amok… guided by elected officials who are either trial lawyers or beholden to same. Anything involved in aviation is a target for hungry trial lawyers looking to make a few bucks out of gut-wrenching tragedy… but this is an industry in which virtually everything we do is regulated or certified to what we think to be a reasonably stringent standard… and yet certified/approved products are sued right and left as "defective."

FAA, ASTM (or equivalent) certifications should count for something… it should protect hard-working, ethical aviation companies and entrepreneurs from the worst of the legal insanity… while still allowing those rare but legitimate legal actions against those who are TRULY negligent and working OUTSIDE of recognized certification standards. Certification should be used a basic cause to deny initial claims of malfeasance or improper design or deficiency. And (certified) improvements to any existing design or product should not be used as a reason to infer that previous products were inferior… as a matter of fact, the legal system should recognize those companies that are undertaking sustained efforts to improve and evolve their products as a strong indicator of their desire to produce the best quality available… rather than having to suffer for it due to the twisting machinations of a trial lawyer (i.e, telling a jury that if you improved an existing product it, then this is 'proof' that your airplane or product sucked to begin with...).

And in the event of any question about ultimate fault, NTSB and other data should NEVER be barred from admissibility (as they are now)… because all that should matter in ANY court of law to ANY responsible Judge, jury and/or attorney is what the TRUTH reveals. I was told by a somewhat controversial practitioner of the legal arts that the word ‘Justice’ should be synonymous with ‘Truth.’

As long as the truth is excluded from any person or company’s ability to defend themselves from a tort action, as we experience it today, there is no ‘Justice.’

The Insanity of ‘Security Theater’

9/11 started it… but there were warning signs out there long before a small group of Godless (I say that because NO self-respecting deity would claim any affiliation with such bastards) psychopaths turned our sense of safety and security totally inverted… again and again. Worse, though, is the cure we brought forth to deal with our fears of further attack… we brought forth the TSA… the singularly most incompetent and ineffective governmental agency in our nation’s history. Worse, it is my personal belief that the establishment and growth of the TSA has provided our enemies their greatest victory... they wanted to hurt us... and the resultant actions of the TSA do JUST THAT... every day)

We can be safe and secure… within reason… but we need to get rid of the TSA’s clownish “Security Theater” and look at practical and realistic solutions that will restore both some semblance of safety as well as sanity… with the sad realization that no matter what we do, that somewhere out there is some nutball who will do anything to hurt someone else -- so that odds are that sooner or later one of these miscreants will simply get lucky and hurt us again… Sad to say, but the concept of perfect security is a ridiculous and false construct right from the start –and the sooner we realize that and do what we can (within reason), we can get on with our lives… and our liberties.

But to get control of our safety and security, the TSA needs to be disbanded and a proper, limited and effective response put in its place. Period.

Pilot Issues/Bill of Rights

If the aviation community wants respect from the rest of the world, it needs to show some respect within its own ranks. Pilots and other aviation professionals all over this nation (and in many other parts of the world) do not have the rights normally associated with other aspects of their citizenship. In the US; the FAA, DoT, NTSB, and TSA (along with associated/lesser agencies) have unheard of power to deprive us of our rights to fly, travel as we please, and work and recreate as our Constitution suggests we should otherwise be able to do.

The FAA is a troubled agency that allows much of the staff to seek all manner of penalties against pilots and airmen with none of the protections that we should otherwise have as free citizens. We are seeing a slowly escalating trend in putative actions based on confusion, personal animus, jealousy, ignorance and other issues that lead us to a scary conclusion… that some idiot caught in broad daylight with a few grams of wacky weed has more rights under the law than a pilot who gets confused, misdirected or otherwise runs afoul of some (often) obscure reg – even when they’re doing everything they’re told. The TSA/DHS is running roughshod over our rights and access to OUR airports… EVEN when we own or lease the property in question. While the NTSB plays middle man as a legal arbiter between the aviation community and the FAA, instead of doing so with the full protection of our beloved Constitution, it uses circuitous, arcane, confusing, “Administrative” procedures that are deliberately designed to work for the government and NOT the citizenry. Aviation does not ask for special treatment… even though it may occasionally be deserving of such… it simply wants FAIR and JUST treatment.

And by the way, FAA staffers, themselves, need protection as well. The FAA is horribly unforgiving of the real or imagined transgressions its sees within its ranks -- and when it decides on a scorched Earth policy for any FAA employee, they can kiss their asses goodbye. There are few checks and balances -- and even so-called Federal whistle-blower protections, as far as the FAA is concerned, are a joke. While the FAA needs to respect aviators far and wide, it needs to do the same for its own people.

The Social Hierarchy of Aviation Should Place Instructors At The Top Of the Pyramid

It’s a dirty thankless job… and yet the future of aviation may rest upon the shoulders of those who are tasked with the chores of teaching new flyers how to survive in an increasingly complex aviation environment. Poorly paid, barely respected, and often at risk of a lawsuit or other indignity, today’s flight instructors are a critical part of our future… and they’re falling by the wayside.

Quality flight instruction, provided by committed, passionate instructors is desperately needed if we’re going to build this industry, keep more pilots safe, and provide fewer 'reasons' for the public to look at us as little more than Evil Knievel wannabees looking for an excuse to ram Grandma’s airliner. We need to both hold them and elevate them to higher standards, we need to pay them better, we need to support their efforts and issues, and we need to accord them the respect that any true, learned professional gets when they have reached the pinnacle of any craft to the point where they are qualified to teach it.

Build up the craft of flight instruction (for each and every aspect of flight), inspire greater professionalism, and support those who dedicate themselves to this noble undertaking and aviation can only benefit as a result.

OK… that's the first four…of MANY, MANY more.

Like what?

Here's a few of the concepts we need to discuss: Reinvigorating and redirecting the LSA concept, Engineering a flying club concept for keeping younger flyers interested until they can afford their own airplanes, enhancing Air Taxi's role in changing our aero-image, Stop the Airlines from killing aviation's image any further, Make our associations answer to us and get them BACK on mission, organize a proper Aero-PR collective effort (and muzzle guys like Jim May), starting a proper outreach program with the media, Get GA a seat at the FAA/Govt Table--Same for TSA, Enact a self-certified medical program, Stop the environmental insanity… and SO MUCH MORE. 

More to follow in the coming days… Stay tuned!

Jim Campbell (Mad As Hell and Not Willing To Take It Anymore)
Unrepentant Aero-Advocate

FMI: ANN's 'Great Rant' -- I've Got Some Comments!


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