Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Stupidity in Reporting

(Picture from here.)

I'm a pilot. I fly recreationally and enjoy myself. It's an expensive hobby and I don't indulge myself as I used to.

That said, there is an amazing amount of misinformation and downright lies about small airports and flying. The latest comes from Sharyl Attkisson, CBS news, which should know better. The report is here.

The title of the piece is "Tiny Airports Get Big Cut of Stimulus Cash". It turns out there there are a number of airports getting stimulus money. 1.1 billion dollars out of the seven hundred plus money. So, we're talking about .15%. This particular article seemed to thing that rural airports shouldn't get that funding.

Here are a few items in the report and the response:
Williamson-Sodus Airport, New York: It's a privately owned, publically operated airport near Rochester. Single strip. The first sin appears to be privately owned. The second to be owned by the "Williamson Flying Club" ("Clubs" in aircraft parlance are commercial entities on the same order as athletic clubs or the Red Sox. They are not organizations of old men who make money.). Let's be clear. Privately owned airports make a deal with the FAA. They conform to all public regulations and public operations and in return get some money from the feds for equipment and property maintenance. It's analogous to a private company owning a road, bridge or pier and taking on the burden of operation for the state. We do this sort of thing all the time. Dumps are often managed this way. Long Wharf in Boston was built using the same idea. WFC got $400,000 to resurface the airport runway-- which is not a cheap process. Runways are as strictly build as intersates. Sharyl Attkisson seems to think that this is somehow a problem.

"$350 million is being spent on little-used airports or ones catering to recreational flyers, corporate jets and remote communities." Yes. Roads and bridges to remote communities or used largely for recreational drivers should also be left to rot as the airports have for the last thirty years. One big example of such "waste" is the $15 million used to build a bigger airport for Ouizinki, AK. Population 165. I suppose that she would not like a road to run to the rural communities up there. Oh, wait. Look up the town on mapquest or google. There aren't any roads. Ouizinki is on an island. We can build a bridge across the strait, a road over to Kodiak, ten miles away. That'll be a lot cheaper... well, no. It won't. We can move the islanders! Forced relation: The Attkisson Solution.

"Tiny Purdue University Airport" has two strips and 315 operations/day, or 114,975 operations/year. Boston as 1094 operstions/day. So Purdue has, as a function of aircraft operations, about 30% of Boston. True, these are small aircraft versus Boston Behemoths, but Boston gets about two orders of magnitude more money. Attkisson's problem seems to be giving Purdue some money to help keep animals off the runway since they haven't had many published incidents. Of course, near misses are not reported as incidents. But they have a good safety record. We should reward that by not helping them at all.

Attkisson then brings up that age old chestnet: why should the costs of small airports (here can be substituted parks, bridges, roads, piers, ports, schools, water quality systems or anything else) not be borne solely by the people benefitting them. Attkisson lives in Northern Virginia, an area that I will likely never visit and is no benefit to me. Why should we pay for her roads, bridges and airports? Let her fill her potholles herself.

The article attempts to gain legitimacy by saying that the money should be spent on safety systems at larger airports. "Consider that Los Angeles International doesn't have the money to install critical taxiway warning lights." Which were installed in June.

But why should I be surprised?

Sharyl Attkisson is also part of the anti-vaccine people (See here and here and here.) as well as other crank sciene. (See here.)

Given that and facts I easily found tearing apart the flimsy fabric of her airport piece, I doubt she has anything of significance to say. She certainly didn't do any real research for this piece. (AOPA also did a good analysis of the piece here.)

What's disturbing about this piece, and other pieces of similarly bad investigative reporting, is that her editors allowed it to be published at all.

However, she did share her hairstyle.
Wall of Idiots
China's Nuclear Testing
Shale Oil Extraction
I Hope Obama Fails
The Real GOP
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Bill Cosby in jello shots
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Indian tiger park, sans tigers

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