formerly "The View From Up Here"

Formerly titled "The View From Up Here" this column began in the Liberty Gazette June 26, 2007.

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February 19, 2013 FAA

The Liberty Gazette
February 19, 2013
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Linda: I subscribe to way too many aviation publications, even some that are government-produced. But grant me forgiveness if you will because those government publications I’ve seen as somewhat of a necessity, at least before Liberty had a full time airport manager with presumably appropriate authority. The FAA publishes advisory circulars on airport-related topics and one can sign up to receive notices on a vast array of aviation subjects. One such is the immediate notification each time someone files a request to invade the airspace with a dangerous obstacle. I’ve been receiving these notices for years now, always watching out for anything proposed that might be too close to the Liberty Airport. Our airport cannot and should not have to afford another obstacle sticking up in its protected zone. Yes, there is a protected zone. It’s called a Height Hazard Zone and it fans out sort of like stadium seats around the airport. The purpose is to protect both pilot and passenger in the airplane as well as people on the ground. Fortunately, there’s an approval process for such spears that reduce safety in the sky, however compromising it may be. The market for cell phones is big enough to carry some political clout, which means those of us who break the bonds of gravity must adjust to thousands of more-than-annoying aerial swords.

And then there are the frequently delivered notices of civil penalties levied against aviation companies for some alleged violation. This one has me very curious. Don’t you wonder where your money goes when it leaves you by law? When the self-aggrandizing Washington elites take your hard-earned dollars before you even get to touch them, and squander that money on who-knows-what (now much worse than measly $5,000 hammers) don’t you wonder what it is you helped pay for by getting up so early and going to work the first four months of the year? Well, I wonder that too, and I also wonder about the destination of the money paid in FAA fines, often by airlines and aviation parts companies. I typically see announcements of fines levied anywhere from $200,000 to well over a million dollars. I highly suspect, it being government and all, that much of this is political, and that not all of it is actually paid. So how much is paid, and where does it end up? Do these "revenues" go into the general fund, the FAA’s budget or some other dark hole? I’m an American citizen so I should be able to find that out, right? Well, keep barking, Sparky – so far, no luck. I haven’t submitted a Freedom of Information request yet but when I’ve asked the FAA I’ve been given the run-around. Responses that pass the buck and eventually try the "who are you and why are you asking" game that end up with "you’ll have to ask our government lawyers," are all they seem to be able to muster. So it leaves me wondering all the more, what have they to hide?

If these people who scheme and squander would spend that energy on honesty and productive work I doubt the fines would be much to question. Then I’d have to find something else to read when we’re not flying.

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