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March 02, 2009

Newt Gingrich's Vision for Air Traffic Control

Via Andrew Sullivan's link to Matt Bai's NY Times article, Newt Gingrich holds forth on many topics, including his vision for updating the air traffic control system.
One of the projects I’m going to launch — we don’t have a name for it yet — is an air-traffic modernization project... You can do a space-based air-traffic-control system with half the current number of air-traffic controllers, increase the amount of air traffic in the northeast by 40 percent, allow point-to-point flights without the controllers having to have highways in the sky ... ... You have far fewer delays in New York, and by the way, you cut the number of unionized air-traffic controllers by 7,000. Our thematic is going to be — you’re going to love this — that if you have an air-traffic delay that’s not caused by weather, take the extra time at the airport and call your two senators and your congressman ..."
You'd think a history PhD would understand that expertise in one field does not automatically extend into other fields. You'd think he'd know about hubris. I'd like to examine some points of Gingrich's fantasy, with Gingrich in blue and my comments in black.

space-based air-traffic-control system A GPS or orbital-nav ATC system would not have tracked any of the aircraft hijacked on 9/11.

increase the amount of air traffic in the northeast by 40 percent Anybody who thinks they can deregulate and increase traffic in the northeast by 40% needs a drug test (which, of course, they give to ATC-ers, but not to history professors).

You have far fewer delays in New York, NY delays are a function of runway capacity (a fixed limit of planes per hour), the size of the planes (union-busting RJs require more planes per hour for the same number of passengers), and the number of connecting passengers (70% of EWR's passengers don't want to be in Newark, they're just connecting).

you cut the number of unionized air-traffic controllers by 7,000. The motivation behind that statement deserves examination.

if you have a .. delay that’s not caused by weather, ... call your Senators... Right. Let's see - whenever the expert passengers think the delay is unreasonable, let's get Senators involved -- they're aviation experts, they fly around a lot. Let's second-guess the pilots and controllers. Let's not question airlines intentionally overscheduling the airport.

If this is his notion of fixing the finest aviation system in the world - well, keep him away from medicine, education, defense, and my loved ones, please.


kentropic said...

In the through-the-looking-glass world of today's GOP, ideas aren't valued for their substantive merit, but for their power to stir up the political base and generate contributions. Or rather -- according to recently-confirmed de facto GOP potentate Rush Limbaugh -- ideas don't matter at all:

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