...And Here, Darn it, Are The Heartbreakers
Final Compilations/Analysis by ANN Editor-In-Chief/Corporate
Insomniac, Jim Campbell
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, 2009 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 Ten of our
Aero-Heartbreakers for 2009... in something of an informal order,
starting from the 10th to the 1st.
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 2009...
Aero-Heartbreaker #2: James May and ATA
I have a hard time confining the
plethora of feelings and opinions I have encountered in covering
ATA and its professional leadership, especially one James May. Part
of me has such horrible feelings about the way that May has managed
ATA's airline interests and its relationship with the rest of
aviation, that it's hard to objectively admit the undeniable fact
that May has been incredibly effective at his job.
And that's the trouble, it's obvious that May has marching
orders that currently define his role as defending the interests of
the airline industry at any cost and against all foes, real or
imagined. And that's the true nature of my heartburn with ATA and
May. The airline industry is being crushed by its own incompetence,
overt lack of professionalism, and ignorance of growing plight. I'm
not sure if they really don't understand how horribly their
industry is faltering, or whether they just don't give a damn.
Either answer is incredibly problematic. The airline industry was
once one of the great shining glorys of the American way.
Phenomenally inventive companies build magnificent silver birds
that crossed the nation, and then the world, bringing Mom-and-Pop
America to places that they never before dreamed of, and in a
matter of hours instead of the days or weeks that elder
transportation systems had taken in the past. Airline travel was
once glorious, effective, incredibly classy, and an undeniably
precious jewel in America's transportation infrastructure.
Now it is wallowing in the mire of incredibly bad
decision-making, complicated by horrific circumstances that were
only accelerated by the horrors of 9/11. But rather than looking
honestly at an industry in decline, and researching ways to
reinvent itself to recover past glories with an eye to new
technologies and programs, they seem clearly intent on beating this
wheezing horse to death. Squeezing something that was so alive and
vibrant and important, til there is nothing left to squeeze, has
never been an effective strategy for humanity or business. And yet
that is truly the way I see the plight of the airlines. Worse than
that, the incredible men and women who have given their heart and
soul to this industry have been treated like cattle, to be disposed
of whenever their liabilities exceeded their benefits. The once
lofty dream of becoming a flight attendant, or an airline pilot, or
aircraft technician, or otherwise engaged in moving Mom-and-Pop
America around the world has been dirtied, shamed, and ground under
the heel of airline management and strategies that have literally
become abusive to all concerned.
I am fully expecting one of two things to happen to the airline
industry... it will either collapse under its own weight and
continue to decline to a point where it becomes barely tolerated
rather than envied (kind of like the way that one views a Greyhound
bus station these days)... or (more hopefully) someone is going to
show up with a new model and execute it in such a way that it can
no longer be ignored -- thereby forcing an industry into the change
it so desperately needs. And, yes, that's what I truly hope for the
many many many people I've come to know and admire in the ranks of
the airline industry -- who truly want to reclaim past glories.
While the decimation of a once proud industry is bad enough; I
have incredible heartburn with ATA and May's continual attacks on
business and general aviation. While it's been built upon
statements and allegations that are often blatantly false,
sometimes laughably so, what's worse than that is that it's just
plain counbter-productive -- even stupid. I can't think of any
industry that doesn't benefit from powerful friends -- and the
alienation of the Business and General Aviation community is a
foolish slap in the face of an incredible demographic -- that (at
some point in the future) could be brought to the fore in support
of their interests.
That is, if they weren't so intent on trying to destroy them.
Can you imagine what would happen to all of aviation if we acted in
concert with each other, if we reinforced each other's needs and
abilities, and if we acted with one incredibly powerful voice to
make our concerns, needs, and capabilities known throughout the
world? Divide and conquer is a great way to win a temporary battle
but most senior field commanders will tell you that it is no way to
win a war. One sincerely hopes ATA and May come to realize, at some
point in the future, that screwing the Business and General
Aviation community was not only stupid but may come to eventually
be seen as one of the worst errors they've made on their truculent
voyage to obscurity.