On Sept. 26 some nut job heard
the clarion call of workplace
terrorism and laid flame to the
Aurora, Ill. Air Traffic Control Center
that handles more than 2 million
flights a year across a five-state area.
The Aurora air traffic controllers are
responsible for traffic in and out of
Chicago’s two commercial airports:
O’Hare and Midway. Thousands of flights
were delayed or canceled as effects rippled
across the country. Planes and
crews couldn’t get to where they were
scheduled. Five days later, a band of thunderstorms
repeated that scenario in miniature.
As has become standard, the administration
has no strategy and Congress has no spine.
Following ill-advised mergers and acquisitions, it
isn’t three of the largest 10 airlines but rather
three of the four mega-airlines in the country
that have hub operations at Chicago’s overcrowded
airports. Similar overcrowding occurs
in New York, Washington, Los Angeles, Atlanta,
Dallas and Denver.
The nation simultaneously has a massive number
of gates no longer used at former hub airports
once serving the acquired carriers. Gates
and concourses lay abandoned at Indianapolis,
St. Louis, Raleigh-Durham, Nashville, Memphis,
Cincinnati, Cleveland and Milwaukee. Next year,
as American finishes eliminating U.S. Air, the
same will be true at Phoenix and Charlotte.
There will be congressional hearings investigating
the consequences of the fire. Members
will speechify about money spent on air traffic
computer upgrades that aren’t performing.
The Congressional Dullard Caucus consists of
435 representatives; its senate counterpart
counts 100 members.
The solution is not, was not and will not be
upgraded air traffic computers. What is at play is
a continuing refusal to enforce federal law. The
same cavalier approach to laws allowed some
bad financial instrument risk decisions to
become the 2008 financial meltdown. Congress,
after the fact, created new laws regulating financial
institutions described as “too big
to fail.” The uncomfortable truth is that
if laws already passed and proven had
been applied, there wouldn’t be
banks, airlines, phone companies, etc.,
that classify as too big to fail.