Is the federal government sabotaging US air travel?
As a former commercial pilot and aviation CEO, I'm not inherently drawn to political explanations for industrial disruptions. However the nature of the nation's airline meltdown that continues from the recent holiday period may cause one to pause and consider how this may stem, at least in part, from government interests and policy.
It is important to appreciate the extent of intentions and objectives that flow from extremist White House ideology, directed at industrial operations believed to be causal to global warming. This includes aspects of food production (fertilizer, for example), all fossil fuel consumption, and general human mobility (much was made of the COVID "lockdown" strategy and its effect on energy use, travel, and carbon emissions).
The global airline system is also in the climate ideologists' (and the U.N.'s) crosshairs, as it is seen as a major culprit of climate change. Like most arguments made by the progressive left, symbolism is often more important than facts, and while aviation's "carbon footprint" is relatively small (about 3% of total emissions), air travel is also a source of authoritarian political anxiety, as it represents human freedom in mobility and choice, along with its inherent ability to create social contact and the sharing of information and culture. One of the first things that any political despot seeks to curtail in a closed society is contact with outside sources, influence of "foreign" behaviors, and the disruption to political authority by the free exchange of ideas.
Certainly the internet and telecommunications can have a similar impact, which is why these are also filtered and controlled by authoritarian governments. But direct human contact is much more difficult to censor and influence. This is why electronic privacy invasion, surveillance, and data capture are embraced by the left: they are an inherent and convenient source of social control.
Most of the public may not appreciate that the equivalent way to control human air travel and interaction is not through the airlines themselves, but by the airspace they fly through: the U.S. federal government directly controls all aviation airspace and flight authority in it because it staffs, operates, and completely regulates air traffic control (ATC). It can simply shut down airspace access, in the same way it can shut down the internet (with the proverbial Obama "kill switch"). It also controls all airline regulatory operating authority. The airline industry is not deregulated; it is entirely controlled by the federal government.
The most recent explanation given to the public through major media is that air travel was suspended due to a "glitch" in the air traffic control system (the U.S. military remains fully flight operational and was exempt from airline grounding). There may indeed have been a technical problem, as the nation's civilian ATC system remains a decades-old technology. But the way this happened through a blanket "ground stop" order by the federal government is not consistent with the purported technical problem (a routine "notice to airmen" broadcast function).
It is not inconceivable that certain interests in government are testing functions and authority to isolate the general population in a national emergency mass "lockdown" in its next wave of biosecurity assertions. The federal government's related emergency authority was just renewed days ago.
Extremist ideology and policy do not simply occur (e.g., COVID lockdowns and tracking), and then society simply goes back to normal: all normal social, economic, and industrial functions are upset, gradually escalated, and subject to systematic political interference, as they are in all authoritarian governments that gain centralized political power. And the U.S. is currently hosting such a government.
The current administration is made up of non-expert, largely academic ideologues. They are not generally from industry, unlike the previous Trump administration. The Department of Transportation, for example, is headed by a pure political appointee with no experience in aviation. This is consistent with the larger White House team that views its authority as an opportunity to impose top-down policy — and its overriding, animating obsession (outside bankrolling their agenda) is de-industrialization. Aviation is among its primary targets to "transform." All disruptions that occur to it should be looked at with a sober eye as to potential programmatic state interference to destabilize it, directly or indirectly.
Image via Public Domain Pictures.