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  • Now Is The Time For Leadership
    Posted by Jennifer Michels 8:23 PM on Sep 16, 2011


    As I was searching for inspiration on how to call for key players to move important aviation legislation forward and start exhibiting true leadership—quite possibly by being the first to compromise or at least by resisting public declarations of the wrongness of their opponents—I came across this quote by Alan Keith of biotechnology firm Genentech: “Leadership is ultimately about creating a way for people to contribute to making something extraordinary happen.”

    If there has ever been a time for true leadership, someone to take us all down the path toward making something extraordinary happen, it is now.


    This also was the message conveyed to Aviation Week by Delta Capt. Lee Moak, president of the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), who met with our editors on Aug. 31 to discuss just that. As Moak said in a Sept. 8 op-ed piece in Aviation Daily: “The FAA has been operating on a series of short-term extensions since September 2007. The lack of dedicated, stable, long-term funding has put a dangerous hold on safety enhancements that are needed now, and it has also blocked actions to improve infrastructure and ensure that air transportation continues to help drive the nation’s economy in the future. This should not be taken lightly, given . . . that commercial aviation is responsible for more than 5% of the U.S. GDP.”

    Much has been said lately about the U.S. losing its competitive edge in aerospace. The Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), for one, has been stepping up to the plate to lobby for the most critical programs. It launched its “Second to None” campaign earlier this year, saying American leadership in aerospace is “being threatened by forces in Congress and the administration.” It will be interesting to see if the Sept. 11-17 National Aerospace Week was able to get the attention of key legislators and leaders, after aerospace executives descended upon Capitol Hill to drive this message home.

    As Moak put it, “From a global perspective, while Congress has been mired in partisan politics rather than focused on FAA funding, European and Asian nations continue to pursue efforts to create the safest and most efficient air transportation systems on the planet. We have heard this message loudly as well from Marion Blakey, head of the AIA.

    President Barack Obama even addressed U.S. competitiveness or lack thereof in his statement about investing in transportation during his speech to the nation on Sept. 8. As he introduced the American Jobs Act, which would have some significant impacts on aviation, Obama said, “Building a world-class transportation system is part of what made us an economic superpower. And now we’re going to sit back and watch China build newer airports and faster railroads?” The jobs bill proposes $50 billion in immediate investments in aviation, highways, transit and rail, including specific earmarks for NextGen and airport improvements. Obama noted that it remains to be seen if Washington will meet its responsibilities. “The question is whether, in the face of an ongoing national crisis, we can stop the political circus and actually do something to help the economy.”

    It seems to me he is calling for someone to take the lead.

    As FedEx Capt. Fred Eissler, who sits on the ALPA Legislative Affairs Committee, put it in the September issue of the union’s Air Line Pilot magazine, when lobbying for important safety and security programs “we have to have a righteous argument.” Righteousness, it would seem, transcends party lines; it is neither Republican nor Democrat.

    We have now spent the better part of this year arguing over an FAA reauthorization bill that was extended for the 22nd time last week because of a stalemate over a less-than-$200-million-per-year program that could either be called essential for rural America or a no-longer-needed airline subsidy, and because of a labor provision that was settled last year outside of the congressional process by a court and has no business in a reauthorization bill. These issues have exhausted lobbyists and Capitol Hill staffers long enough. Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) (above) are prime examples of two strong yet flexible forces for aviation. But can agreement on critical programs be made with their counterparts in the House without more speechmaking?

    Just as Republicans and Democrats must search their souls for compromise, isn’t it also the duty of industry organizations to stop taking swipes at one another, whether it be airports against airlines, for example, to achieve some common ground, to lead us to something extraordinary?

    Tags: tw99, AWCOL, FAA, Reauthorization, Leadership, ALPA

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