Abolish the FAA

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I
started writing about what a bunch of goons the FAA is on September
3rd, 2001. I was mentally organizing the points against
them as I stood in London's Gatwick airport. My toiletries bag was
being manually searched for the second time in three hours, after
being x-rayed three times. My wife is a Serb with a Yugoslav passport.
The US government now sees fit to have all Yugoslav citizens searched
and carefully scrutinized prior to entering the United States, regardless
of whether or not they're married to an American, live here, or
have a perfect track record of dozens of flights without so much
as a nasty word to a stewardess. (side note: Jesse Jackson help!
I've been profiled!) As I griped at the first old Brit who searched
us, he nasally informed me that "It's your country's FAA policy,
not ours." Great. The FAA had managed to reach across the ocean
to impose its moronic security measures on me. Two years ago, FAA
security measures included a strip search of my 18-year-old brother-in-law.
A Serb, coming to the United States on a high school exchange program,
he was marched on the plane with armed guards in front and behind.
Needless to say, his first experience with the security bureaucracy
in the Land of the Free made Yugoslavia's police seem downright
reasonable.

After
our ritual humiliation in London, complete with underwear on the
check-in counter while fellow passengers looked on, my wife and
I saw exactly how effective the FAA's security proved. Perfectly
effective at humiliating, infuriating, and inconveniencing law-abiding
citizens.

On
May 11, 1996, ValueJet flight #592 from Miami to Atlanta crashed
in the Everglades, killing all aboard. The airline was nearly bankrupted
from the bad publicity, loss of fares, and FAA grounding. They eventually
merged with another discount carrier, AirTran, taking their name.
In the free market, consumers reward companies by purchasing goods
and services they want, and punish companies by avoiding them. I
like flying Continental, because the planes are new, the crews are
friendly, the flights are on time, and the tickets are competitively
priced. I didn't like TWA for the exact opposite reasons, and many
people shared my views, because TWA is now out of business. That's
the free market at work, harshly but effectively correcting businesses,
while providing customers more and more for their money.

On
September 11, 2001, the FAA security measures at 3 airports completely
failed. The FAA on-board security protocols, identically flawed
aboard two separate airlines, also failed. The hijackers were able
to take control of four aircraft. The FAA, if their security did
manage to interdict any of the hijackers, has yet to tell us about
it; leaving us fairly certain that the hijackers had a 100% success
rate against FAA security measures, on their first try. While the
FAA's flawed security did nothing to protect the thousands in the
World Trade Center, Pentagon, and on board, the story of United
Flight 93 is different. Conspiracy shootdown theories aside, it
seems that armed only with the grim knowledge that the other hijacked
jets had been used as flying bombs, private citizens rushed the
terrorists, and took care of business. And so we see the naked truth,
starkly illustrated by the fragmented remnants of the one plane
that did not find its target: a handful of brave private citizens
are more effective than the entire obstacle course of FAA faux security.

When
the airlines screw up by providing lousy service, by crashing, or
by losing bags, the consumers punish them, viz. TWA and ValueJet.
When the FAA screws up, it transfers the punishment to, that's right,
the companies that get the wonderful "security service"
and their passengers. Although the Fed-induced, post boom economic
slowdown is partially to blame, the FAA's incompetence and ham fisted
response has certainly helped destroy at least one company, and
put over 70,000 people out of work.

Announced
Layoffs to Date

Midway Bankrupt

1,700

Continental

12,000

United

20,000

U.S. Air

11,000

Boeing

30,000

These
are just the major cuts. This doesn't include the smaller regional
airlines, or the foreign airlines affected by the grounding. The
most infuriating characteristic of government bureaucracy is that
it functions in the exactly opposite manner from the free market.
If a private security consulting company had two of its airline
clients compromised, it would quickly be bankrupted, as its customers
took their business to the competition. In typical post-government-failure
fashion, the FAA has asked for more power and more “funding”. Especially
galling to those who are losing jobs, the
FAA has opened a web site to post job openings.

That
this pathetic failure of a government agency still exists after
demonstrating their complete incompetence is a travesty of justice.
The FAA provided only the thin, illusory veneer of security, while
guaranteeing that jetliners were targets for hijacking by disarming
all on board. Terrorists won't use the same tactics next time. It
won't be thanks to the FAA running us through metal detectors more
slowly, taking the steak knives off planes, putting an Air Marshall
on board, making us park further away, or stopping curb-side check-in.
It'll be thanks to the heroic example of the private citizens aboard
Flight 93.

If terrorists try to hijack an airplane, you can bet the people
on board will assume the worst, and do everything to stop it. The
old assumptions of "just do what they say and no one gets hurt"
or "let the experts negotiate this" are gone. The terrorists
know this. They are deterred from using the same tactics next time.
The FAA has exactly nothing to do with these facts of life. It is
private citizens with a normal concern for their safety and that
of others that will prevent a repeat of the 9-11 attacks. The airlines
are probably already meeting with Boeing, designing reinforced cockpit
bulkheads to retrofit their airplanes and protect their pilots.
No doubt the FAA will mandate this and other obvious safety measures
that the airlines are going to implement anyhow, however, they'll
continue to pile on ineffective, expensive measures like they already
have so it looks like they're "doing something."

The
FAA should be abolished, and every FAA "employee" should
be laid off. Some of the billions that Congress is ladling out to
the airlines could be used as capital investment in a private air
traffic control firm to take the place of the FAA. The airlines,
in conjunction with their insurance providers, should craft their
own security measures, and advertise them as competitive advantages.

I've
had quite enough of the "I just need to look in your bag"
harassment, added cost, and "did anyone give you a ticking
package" lost time that the FAA has heaped on me and other
law-abiding Americans for years. What's needed is more of what works:
private industry, and less of what has completely failed: government
regulation.

September
26, 2001

John Keller
[send
him mail]
owns a Technology
Consulting
and a Real
Estate
business in Atlanta, GA.

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