FAA power grab?
The pattern is familiar: One by one,
federal departments and agencies are instructed by the Bush White House to
pander to industry and ease up on enforcement of rules and regulations.
Check them off: Interior, Environmental
Protection Agency, Federal Communications Commission, Energy and down the list,
each altering or abandoning rules to accommodate industries over which they once
asserted control as a public trust.
Now, the Federal Aviation Administration
seems ready to roll over to accommodate aviation interests rather than community
The latest maneuver should be a special
outrage for members of Congress who champion local control over Washington
control when possible.
Managers of smaller U.S. airports learned
in Sun Valley this week of a new proposed FAA strategy that, if not derailed,
will gut their authority to set and police standards for noise, safety and
aircraft weight to meet the individual demands of communities they serve.
Denver aviation attorney Peter Kirsch told
the "resorts airports" section of the American Association of Airport Executives
that if community airports accept FAA funds, they’ve made a bargain with the
devil: FAA will open airports virtually to any aircraft regardless of noise
impact or weight, day or night.
This is devastating news for smaller
airports not designed for heavier and larger aircraft, not staffed for
round-the-clock operations and that have worked diligently to reduce noise
impact on nearby residential areas.
This dramatic shift away from local
control of airport operating standards seems driven by politically influential
manufacturers and users of larger jets now banned at small airports, and by
large new jet leasing companies that want unrestricted access to small airports
more convenient for their clients.
One big loser in this new FAA strategy
would be Hailey’s Friedman Memorial Airport and its voluntary noise abatement
and nighttime curfew programs.
This FAA power grab should be of special
alarm to the likes of Idaho Rep. Butch Otter, who led a rousing revolt against
President Bush and his Justice Department by convincing a 309-to-118 House
majority to strip the Patriot Act of an onerous secret-search provision.
In some matters, Washington may know best.
However, in the matter of how airports can be better neighbors, local officials
know far better because they’re closer to the problems and the solutions.
If the FAA can’t understand that wisdom,
then Congress needs to rebuke the agency and remind President Bush of his 2000
election promises about local control.