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Looking at regulations that ARE unnecessary

Some years ago, the airlines were pleading poverty (again) and negotiated with the airline pilots’ unions to allow the major airlines to fly “cheaper, smaller” feeder airplanes into hubs like Atlanta, La Guardia, Chicago and so on. The deal was called the Scope Regulations. And these feeder airplanes did not have to have union wages for the pilots. After all, smaller airplanes are not as complex or responsibility-laden as the major, larger aircraft, right?

Of course wrong. But the airline pilots’ association agreed to these regulations in return for a guarantee of existing benefits and reduced layoffs at the time.

So American Airlines formed American Eagle, Delta made Delta Express, and so on. The limits for these smaller aircraft were 76 seats and a weight of 86,000 pounds. Turbo props were thought to be the only types of airplanes that fitted the bill — at the time. 

Then along came Embraer (Brazil) and Bombardier (Canada), with turbo props and small regional airplane jets. Not as complicated? Wrong. The same. Especially when you realize these flights are handling the major airports’ air traffic control issues. The pilots make less than 60 percent of what the major airline pilots do.

And guess what? Union busting is all the rage for Wall Street. The plans are now to pass further regulations removing the limit for Scope, or at least increasing it to allow more flights at those lower, nonunion, pilot pay scales. 

There is a union battle looming, just in time for summer, and yes, there will be disruption. The airlines are making huge profits again, and they are prepared to punish the passengers holding out to prevent pilots renegotiating better, safer flying deals. More people in smaller planes make them more profit. Cattle trucks are very economical.

Meantime, there is a great, wonderful, British group that has invented a small drone that could revolutionize food aid in war zones and areas where air drops are not possible. They have invented an edible drone, nutritionally packed with everything starving people need. Inside there is a small battery powering the flight controls, taking guidance from a small GPS chip. What you do is this: load up a C-130 Hercules with these glider drones, broadcast the coordinates of the drop zone — wi-fi to the chips. Throw them out of the plane. They can drift down safely. The plane stays away from a war zone (at high altitude and perhaps 60 miles away), the food drops to those in need. Aleppo could use this right now.

Ah, but regulations. Those programmable chips are licensed as military hardware. So they have had to include a second battery and a destruction device that destroys the chips just as they reach land. This, of course, reduces the edible weight of the plane, so people will remain hungry a little longer.

Peter Riva, a former resident of Amenia Union, now lives in New Mexico.