Airline travel safety and "runway incursions"
The Associated Press reported yesterday that there were a near-record number of "runway incursions" during the last fiscal year. A runway incursion is exactly what it sounds like: a close call between two airplanes, where one has nearly caused a collision by interfering with the other's use of a runway. There are roughly six of these events for every one million air traffic operations, and some incursions left one airliner as close as 35 feet from another. 25 to 30 of these incursions each year are characterized as "serious" because a collision is so narrowly averted.
This near-collision rate is another example of the impact of the Iraq War and "starve-the-beasters" on public safety. The enormous cost of the war has stressed our resources and the public's willingness to be taxed, and the Bush Administration has cut corners in every other aspect of government--partly to reduce the size of government as a matter of philosophy and partly to accommodate the cost of the War. The result is reduced budgets and staffing for the CPSC, the FDA, the FAA and virtually every other element of the federal government that serves as a watchdog for citizens and consumers. Critics say that most incursions result from a shortage of air traffic controllers and unreasonable reliance on overtime hours for controllers, along with lack of runway lighting and ground radar control.
Someone with courage must stand up and acknowledge that the war in the Middle East has costs that go beyond the lives of some of our best young people and the actual military budget. Every dollar that is spent in Iraq is a dollar that is not being spent on our own infrastracture and our own "intellectual" infrastructure, (i.e., education, in particular, but also alternative energy technology, for example). Clearly American taxpayers will not make unlimited pledges to fund the government, and demagogues will always be goading taxpayers and voters to "starve the beast". Every tax dollar must be treated as precious and squeezed for its greatest value: our massive hemorrhage in Iraq is not frugal, democratic government at work, and it carries real consequences for American citizens.