John Carr, the former president of NATCA (National Air Traffic Controllers Association), writes a thriller of a blog called The Main Bang. You can only read it when you are next to an immediate fire suppression rescue device as your hair will spontaneously combust from all of the FAA transgressions against the controllers and the safety of the flying public.
Yesterday, John and his faithful commenters took on this a new Bushco War OF Terror TM threat:
Now it seems you can have real time flight tracking on virtual radar in your office, home, workplace, or, God forbid, a pickup truck full of Osama’s buddies toting shoulder fired missiles—for the low, low price of only $899.
I once famously crashed the party at a Congressional field hearing at Chicago Center to make sure Congress knew that, “Our Nation has entered the on-ramp to the information superhighway. The FAA cannot even get their Pinto out of the driveway.” (See this Congressional record, page 97, from over 12 years ago.)
Well, it’s ditto modernization, folks. While Bush, Blakester and Bobert have been busy caning their employees like they spit gum on the sidewalks of Singapore, their facilities have fallen apart like a Korean Swiss Army Knife. Meanwhile…the modernization tools of airspace mischief and destruction are being hawked right underneath their noses, on the Internet.
You can buy real time flight tracking here and here. I have been thinking about buying one of these babies and a handheld VHF radio and working a little final to fourteen-right at O’Hare some night. “Three from the marker, right to one two zero to join, three til established, cleared for the approach. If you need more room behind the guy in front of you, push your seat back you sissy.” Yeeee-HAW!!!
Did you get that?
John is saying that anyone can hack into air traffic control and direct pilots to anywhere. As in into another plane, into the ground, into buildings, etc.
Have you ever listened to controllers working a regular, everyday shift traffic? Choose your favorite location and settle in where the performance is always at 100%, zero tolerance for a major error (two or more entities occupying the same space at the same time).
And then (wet your hair now as a precautionary measure), one of John’s commenters provides enough real-life scenarios if real-time radar access goes forward:
I found this about ADS-B, the core component of the FAA’s NEXGEN system;
These five stories are set slightly in the future, but only slightly. Perhaps five years from now. The technology described is an accurate portrayal of ATC systems of today, or in the case of ADS-B, an accurate portrayal of systems that are test flying today. The individuals and situations are fictional of course.
The scenarios are all very detailed, so I have included the one that seems to have generated the most concern by air traffic controllers. They are all worth a close read and are important to consider.
Scenario Five….User Fees for General Aviation
Harvey Patton started his company for the best of reasons. His city was about to close the airport and turn the land into an industrial park. The various factions had fought over this issue for years and Harvey realized that if the airport users were seen to be paying their own way, and perhaps paying a bit extra, then the city could be convinced to keep the airport open.
In that light, local airport user fees didn’t look so bad. If the fees were structured according to the weight of each aircraft, the bulk of the expense would be borne by the companies that could afford it while the pleasure pilots would only pay a token sum. It sure beat losing the airfield.
So Harvey went to the city with this proposal: He would supply and maintain the equipment at no cost to the city, all the city had to supply was a place to house a PC and antenna. The equipment would receive and log the ADS-B signals and routinely modem the data to Harvey’s business where billing and collecting would be done. The city would receive 85% of the monthly billings without lifting a finger to do any work. All aircraft activity would be monitored 24 hours a day, 7 days a week whether the tower or FBO were on duty or not.
The city accepted, and the idea worked. Every month the city received a substantial check which went into the airport fund and provided a surplus. Everyone was happy. Well, the users weren’t totally happy but they realized it was better than closing the airport altogether. And many users, the smaller aircraft, were escaping user fees by not installing ADS-B. True, not having the collision avoidance equipment meant a higher risk, but many pilots were more concerned with high costs than improved margins of safety.
Harvey realized that we are losing an airport a day in the United States and some of those are important GA facilities similar to his airport. He went to those cities and sold the same deal, it was easy to do the automatic billing and collections from his location. He was getting 15% of the take from a number of fields and the revenue began to roll in. Next step was to approach the Westchesters and Addisons all over the country with the same arrangement, every airport needs additional funding and this deal was too good for them to resist. Business increased by leaps and bounds (or takeoffs and landings) and Patton Aviation Revenue was a resounding success.
Within a few years Patton equipment was working all over the country. It was installed, it was functioning, it was a proven source of aviation funding. Of course the users were unhappy, particularly at the fields where the fees were set to limit traffic or limit noise or for some other artificial reason. But the corporate users, those who were required to use ADS-B, had no alternative but to pay.
Then the new Congress instituted federal user fees for General Aviation. This hadn’t happened previously because there was no billing and collecting infrastructure, but Harvey Patton had changed all that. Or more accurately, ADS-B had changed all that.
The feds contracted with Patton Aviation Revenue in the same way they contract with Jeppesen or Flight Safety or others who provide a service. Patton did the billing and kept a percentage of the take. Suddenly every takeoff, every flight mile, every landing was computer monitored. VFR or IFR, the airspace bill arrived at the end of the month.
The users screamed, they cursed Harvey Patton, but it was no use. If they were going to fly with ADS-B they were going to be billed. Yet the pilots with foresight, those who had never installed ADS-B, weren’t paying a cent. Until a court action was filed, that is.
The US Federal Court for the Ninth District ruled that all airspace users must be treated equally. The court left it up to the FAA to determine what “equally” consisted of but the edict was firm, equality in user fees had to be maintained.
What happened then There are many possible endings to this story. Maybe each non-ADS-B aircraft received an “average” bill every month whether they flew or not. Or maybe every plane was forced to install ADS-B and the resulting frequency overload created the same situation we’ve had at Oshkosh for many years: “turn your transponder to standby when 30 miles out”. Then the planes, with their ADS-B turned off, were prohibited from flying in controlled airspace. Or maybe the aircraft owners simply gave up and sold the birds for whatever they could get and pleasure flying died, taking FBOs and manufacturers with it.
Today it is not possible to saddle General Aviation with user fees for one simple reason – there is no infrastructure to collect those fees. The test that aviators must apply to ADS-B (or any similar technology) is simple: Are there any words that Congress could say that will hurt us If the answer to that question is yes, then pilots and aircraft owners must reject the technology.
Proponents of ADS-B tell us that there will be an “anonymous” mode that the pilot can select. But that will be true only as long as the rules permit it. Once upon a time we could turn off the transponder if we wanted to, but as the years passed that choice was eliminated. The same will inevitably be true of an anonymous setting, it can only be used until it is prohibited. First prohibited at flight levels and at major hubs, then prohibited in IFR, then prohibited, period.
Proponents of ADS-B also tell us that we can be tracked today. That is somewhat true, but recent experience in the well publicized JFK Jr. accident is instructive. His plane went down around 9 PM Friday and the search and rescue efforts began at 6 AM Saturday. Those efforts continued, under intense press scrutiny, through all of Saturday, all of Sunday, and all of Monday. Around midday Tuesday the FAA finally decoded enoughof their radar tapes to determine the location where the plane went into the water. After the spot was pointed out, the remains of the aircraft were promptly found.
It took FAA more than 72 hours to find one aircraft, an aircraft that the President of the United States and the world press corps were actively interested in finding. Given the number of flights daily, it is clear that the FAA does not begin to have the resources to track and bill every flight.
Tracking every IFR flight would be somewhat easier, but many of those will switch to VFR if there is a substantial money saving. And if it comes to that, safety will suffer. Isn’t safety what ADS-B was for in the first place Don’t you detect something wrong here
This is just a single example of Bushco’s active undermining of regulatory agencies in providing essential public services and safety protections for Americans.
Bush policy is a joke – and that joke is deadly and at the expense of all Americans.