Under questioning by CNN reporter Candy Crowley today, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood claimed he "had no idea" air traffic controllers were tired or under stress when, in recent weeks, several controllers - including one at Reagan National Airport - were found to have been asleep while on duty, as pilots seeking to land tried to contact the control tower.
But this problem did not start yesterday. It started 30 years ago when President Ronald Reagan fired the air traffic controllers who had held a sick out protesting the very conditions that led to this debacle. And it has been ongoing, only coming to public light in when, with FAA permission, the airport named after the jerk who started it all reduced its staff to a single controller.
Duh - an approaching plane found no one in the tower answering!
According to the New York Times, William R. Voss, president and chief executive of the Flight Safety Foundation, a nonprofit group based in Virginia, said the Federal Aviation Administration had so far failed to address what should be its primary concern: sleep-deprived controllers.
"It's the underlying issue that has been there for 30 years," said Mr. Voss, who has been a pilot and an air traffic controller. "You do have a serious problem if you have fatigued controllers. That's the problem, not falling asleep."
Voss said one solution was to allow controllers to take naps in shifts while on duty to ensure they were well enough rested to handle plane traffic.
So Ray LaHood was lying to Candy Crowley. He must have known perfectly well about the control tower stresses. He is suspending and firing those lower down, calling them "unprofessional" when in fact he should immediately resign. LaHood falls in the tradition of Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who fired Shirley Sherrod without even bothering to investigate slanders hurled against her by creeps with known sleazy far-right track records. Vilsack also should have resigned for incompetence. But - he's a tool for Iowa agribusiness, turning the nation's food into ethanol for gas and a big cause of rising food prices. So he stayed in office.
LaHood is a pork-barrel Republican with a very thin background in transportation. Meaning he knows little about it and got the job so the administration could show it was bipartisan. They chose, as it turns out, a fool, and probably a corrupt one.
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