Apologies to Edouard Manet.

Much has already been written, said and probably forgotten about the FAA's notorious conference in Atlanta last December. Never averse to flogging dead horses, I'll add my own impressions to the sum of all previous commentary.

According to agency propagandists, the gathering was all part of "a process of significant cultural change." Hmmm. Those of us who've lived among FAA's citizens and studied them with an anthropological curiosity understand that when "the FAA is engaged in a process of significant cultural change" (an annual ritual since 1981), certain prerequisite accommodations must be provided in order to ensure success. These include but may not be limited to Five Star hotel conferences, hundreds of gallons of alcoholic beverages and, of course, hookers . . . lots of hookers. For sure.

We also understand that the news media is not above using clever camera angles, hidden cameras, special effects and purportedly unbiased TV Anchors to convey the impression that federal agencies are reckless and irresponsible. It's amazing that, after decades of being slapped around, FAA still has not learned to manipulate or, at the very least, evade the news media as deftly as some other Government agencies; many of whom have spent considerably more money on conferences.

In the big picture, FAA's $5 million dollar bargain bash was about as newsworthy as the last "Man Bites Dog" story or losing a twenty-five cent piece under your couch cushion. Yet the news media fabricated, exaggerated and disseminated a tale that had little to do with the actual conference. It would, however, leave much of the public with a bad impression and the FAA scrambling to make excuses for something that all their employees could use more of. That would be training!

If ABC's viewers could have been shown what life on the job is really like for those conference attendees, they might agree that a little after hours partying was well warranted. Of course, that kind of story wouldn't have contained the amusing dash of cynicism we all love. What we got instead was kind of like ABC doing a story on the FAA employee who received a government check for $6000 bucks, which paid for his trip to Rio. Oh . . . did they mention the check was a tax refund?

Now, everyone knows the Government wastes money. This is news? If  Diane Sawyer and the rest of those crazy kids down at ABC are truly interested in exposing government waste, they should take a hidden camera into the U.S. Capitol and film a couple of other parties; the Democrats and the Republicans. That would be far more real and informative than the sophomoric piece they did on those who operate and manage what is arguably the best air traffic control system in the world.

© NLA Factor, 2010

1 comment:

Kevin said...

I understand your point here but the more important message was that the gathering in Atlanta to brief about reverting back to the way we used to function was unnecessary and wasteful. In this age of E meetings and messaging they could have and should have been able to get whatever message they wanted to convey to their managers and supervisors in a more cost effective way.

I've yet to hear one controller say they thought the exposure was unfair given the hypocrisy we in the field have had to stomach, the last few years especially.