Innovation And Air Traffic

Posted on Categories Airport

Whenever anyone mentions the idea of somehow constraining the air traffic over Des Moines you will invariably get something like the following reply:

If you get rid of the planes, you get rid of revenue. And then the airports close. And then the jobs go away!

This is the kind of argument we hear from politicians (including your city council), business, the Port, etc. You probably believe it, too.

But as a former Detroiter and an engineer who worked in logistics for quite some time, I can assure you these arguments are specious.

When people wind up this old Victrola, I always remind them of the automotive industry. If you’re old enough, you’ll recall that when the government first started creating pollution and mileage standards, automakers said the sky would fall. Last time I checked, the sky is still there and auto companies appear to be doing fine.

The missing piece that (ironically) no one mentions in these arguments is AMERICAN INNOVATION. Engineers responded to the new rules as with any challenge—they rolled up their sleeves and got it done (Thank God.) All the engineers absolutely looooooove a big career-size challenge.

If airports simply capped the number of flights as I propose, the airlines would respond in just the same way: they would INNOVATE. They would find a way. They would demand that Boeing and Airbus create the first truly climate-friendly planes in history. They would use their mastery of logistics to load-balance their flight schedules (move planes around more efficiently) to minimise the effects on communities AND at the lowest cost impact to their bottom line. Don’t think it’s possible? They already do it–they make a LOT more money now by wringing efficiencies out of each route. They just have to be told to do it in a way that takes communities into account.

Again, the airline industry would INNOVATE and solve the problem just like ALL great American companies have done. Just as car and truck companies have learned to do. And they would do it at a speed that no one thought possible–simply because no one had ever tried.

I worked in logistics for a good while and I know how adaptable the world of logistics is. They respond to problems ALL THE TIME–most of which you never hear about because they do it so seamlessly. In short, it can be done. The reason it isn’t done now is: BECAUSE THEY DON’T HAVE TO. What business does what it doesn’t have to? But ‘not required’ does NOT mean ‘not doable’.

See that’s the thing that always amazes me. What company spends money it doesn’t absolutely have to? Companies do R&D because they think it will further their business interests. Why on earth would any airline or Port improve their environmental impact UNLESS COMPELLED? Just to be ‘good corporate citizens?’ Puh-lease. If you have some of your retirement savings invested in Alaska or Boeing you want them to MAKE MONEY. But slap on a few ‘regulations’, give an airline or an airport some boundaries and JUST WATCH. They will get it done because there is still so much money to be made. So in this case? Environmental regulations are a win-win. It improves our situation and gives them a fantastic PR story to tell of challenges met and concern for our planet and blah, blah, blah.

Again, ‘not required’ does NOT mean ‘not doable’.

The only solution is to cap flights at Sea-Tac, by a simple vote of three commissioners and then watch the airline industry re-invent itself. We’d be doing the airlines a huge favour.