First Word: 01/05

The Wild Ride Ahead
Now that the election is behind us and the bile is receding, the guessing game begins. AOPA reports that general aviation interests are we’ll represented in the new Congress; some 14 recently re-elected Representatives or Senators are pilots and most candidates AOPA supported won, all good news. The larger question is does general aviation have a friend in the White House? My prediction is no, it does not, and the next four years will prove a wild ride for the industry.

On the security front, AOPA and other industry groups have done a superb job of keeping TSA (mostly) off our backs. We still have to put up with massive TFRs that shut down absurdly large tracks of airspace wherever the President travels but sadly, having no choice, were getting used to that. Whats coming will be harder to swallow: ATC privatization and user fees.

Rep. Peter DeFazio, an Oregon Democrat, recently said the reason the FAA and administration have been delaying the hiring of new controllers is to force privatization by precipitating a crisis. The only thing I can figure, says DeFazio,is theyll run us up to a wall and say, `Hey, we have a problem here. Then theyll use that as an excuse to contract out air traffic controller jobs.

The current administration has made no secret of its infatuation with privatized government services, with Social Security high on the list. George W. Bush pointedly said he earned political capital in the election and he intends to spend it. And speaking of spending, with deficits out of control, will he have sufficient capital to force a Congressional rollover on ATC privatization as means of cutting spending? Or worse, some compromise solution thats the worst of all worlds? In my view, this administration is highly likely to force some kind of privatization bill through Congress, or at least try.

Not that privatization is all bad but if it comes with user fees and reduced services-quite likely-the light aircraft segment of GA will suffer mightily. Growth in this segment is, at best, tender. Heaping on fees and restrictions will do nothing but stunt it.

On the other hand, the FAA is rife with waste of the sort for-profit companies don’t tolerate. The previous FAA administrator, Jane Garvey, gave away the store in negotiating salaries for air traffic controllers and at a time when airline pilots are suffering massive cuts in pay and benefits and workers throughout the economy are asked to do more with less, controllers have been luxuriously insulated. Not that anyone should begrudge controllers their high salaries. Far from it. But like everyone else, they need to become more productive and not solve every problem by throwing more people at it.


Wheres My Gyro?
Good customer service is a rarity these days. Most companies seem too busy marketing, selling and making to do what customers desperately want: someone to answer the telephone. And with a live voice, not a phone robot with a multi-tiered menu that efficiently terminates the call in an automated hang-up.

For this months report on instrument repair and overhaul, we visited a company-JDC in Fort Lauderdale, Florida-that has it figured out. Company president Dave Vorsas told us there’s no phone robot at JDC; a live person answers and routes the call. Better yet, throughout the shop, projected on the wall for everyone to see, is a computer-generated work-order status board. When a customer calls to inquire about an HSI or autopilot repair, there’s no Ill check on that and have someone call you. Whoever answers the phone can immediately check the board and inform the customer of where the job stands and when it will be shipped. So simple, so clever and so rare.

-Paul Bertorelli