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Fri, Jan 15, 2010

ANN's 'Heroes 'n Heartbreakers' '09: Heartbreaker #2 -- James May and ATA

...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 aviation.

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 catalog.

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 year.

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. 

FMI: Comments/Criticism????


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