Another Waste of Taxpayer Money

I knew the FAA was slow, but this is ridiculous.

I’m terrible about opening my mail. I routinely fetch it from my mailbox (which is two miles from my home) and leave it on the dashboard of whatever vehicle I’m driving. Or toss it behind the seat. Or bring it inside, but leave it in my “inbox” pile. No matter where it enters my life, it sits there for a long time. Truth be told, there’s a six-month period in early 2014 when I just stuffed it all in a box and lost it in my garage. (I honestly think there’s a black hole in there.)

This time of year, when I’m actually expecting checks, I pay a little closer attention to what comes in the mail. That’s why I noticed the letter from the FAA and opened it within two weeks of receipt. (Heck, I knew the FAA wasn’t sending a check, so why rush?)

Inside was the letter dated 5/19/2017 that you can see below.

FAA Letter
So the FAA basically waited 17 years to give me an opportunity to opt out of releasing my address to the public.

It basically says that back on April 5, 2000 (not a typo), Congress and the President — Bush 43, I guess — enacted a law that required the FAA to make pilot addresses available to the public. Fortunately, I can opt-out of this invasion of my privacy by signing the letter and sending it back to the FAA.

But I have to hurry! Even though it took them 17 years to send me this letter, I only have 90 days to respond.

Can you believe this crap?

My first thought was what a waste of taxpayer money this is. Wikipedia reports that there were 590,039 certificated pilots in the United States as of 2015 year-end. That means the FAA had to print and mail 590,039 letters just like the one I got.

Maybe that’s why it took so long? Maybe they just got up to the Ls?

So the FAA has blown through 1181 reams of paper and a similar number of boxes of envelopes. Even if they got bulk rate on mailing all those envelopes, they’ve still spent well over $100,000 on postage. Somebody had to handle the mailing — even if a machine stuffed the envelopes, someone still had to tend to that machine and get them to the post office. How many trips to the Post Office is that? Do they have trucks standing by for mass mailings like this?

So how much money have they pissed away on this so far? A quarter million? More?

And then there’s the processing. I’m not going to the website. I’m going to sign the letter and mail it back. There’s got to be some poor slob in Oklahoma City who’s sitting at a desk just waiting for envelopes with signed letters to come in. He or she has to look up each one in the system and toggle a check box to say we want our addresses kept private. And then what? Do they actually file all that paper? Stick it in filing cabinets? How many filing cabinets do they have? How many rooms does that fill? Do they have buildings filled with filing cabinets of paper?

Paper!

And for what? What gives Congress and the President the right to decide that the public is entitled to the addresses of certificated pilots? What is the benefit of such a rule? Why would they even do this?

And who the hell wouldn’t opt out?

This is stupid from start to end. it’s wallpapered with stupid.

But that’s our tax dollars at work. Imagine how many educational programs the cost of this mailing would have funded. How many Meals on Wheels dinners. How many airport improvements, for Pete’s sake.

Why are the people in Washington so damn stupid with our money?

10 thoughts on “Another Waste of Taxpayer Money

  1. This is a perfect example of bureaucracy in action, that unique combination of agonizing slowness with inexorable doggedness when it comes to routine or unnecessary tasks. They should have just put this online, would have been done in a week, or better yet, automatically opt every pilots address out unless they elect to have it published.

    On the other hand, at least the feds offer the option to keep it unpublished. Our corporations have shown a nearly universal tendency to monetize our private information at every possible opportunity, regardless our our wishes.

    As an owner-operator, you should be aware that while your aircraft is a flying billboard advertising your business, it’s N-number links back to you as the owner on the FAA registry. Unless you register it under a corporation or LLC with it’s own address, your home address will be a public record, with no opt-out option.

    • I’m easy to find. I don’t try to hide. It’s just the idea that a law makes it easy for people to get pilot addresses. It opens us up to all kinds of junk mail. And possible scams.

      I don’t see the reason WHY pilot info should be made public. Pilots can’t be traced via N-numbers so it isn’t as if it’s so the public can track down a pilot they have a problem with. We should be automatically opted out. Then they could have wasted money giving us an opportunity to opt in. ;-)

  2. That letter is a little gem, a crystaline form of utter incompetence. An exercise in how to annoy the reader.

    1) It refers only to ‘airmen’.
    You could have argued that women pilots are excluded from the legislation as they were not mentioned. So the addresses and ratings of women pilots must therefore remain private.

    2) It contains wonderful sections of gilded twittage. I particularly liked the sentence:-
    ” if you are interested, the pertinent language of the act can be viewed at…”

    That could have been reduced to: “This will link you to the relevant section..”

    3) They are in a hurry for your response because they waited many years before telling you about this change. As you point out.
    (Durr)

    • “Airmen” is FAA lingo for “pilots.” They could just say “pilots,” but that would screw up the abbreviation “NOTAM,” which is “notice to airmen.” “NOTPI” doesn’t roll off the tongue as easily. ;-)

      Having been an government employee for five years (right out of college), I can easily imagine the process to get this letter written and sent out — and it isn’t pretty. The bureaucracy of the City of New York likely doesn’t hold a candle to the bureaucracy of the federal government.

    • Airmen covers more than pilots. Part 65 – Certification: Airmen other than flight crewmembers has 5 airmen certificates: ATC tower operators, aircraft dispatchers, mechanics, repairmen and parachute riggers.

  3. Please keep sending. Am an old aviator. I fly no more but like what you say about flying, and how the rest of your life fits with it. Michael Gibbons

  4. Yep. Each time I fly I have to check the CAA NOTAMS for the day.
    But surely we could come up with other acronyms which recognise the possibility of female pilots?
    The first Serbian tank attacked (and ‘neutralised’) at Srebrenica was hit by a Dutch woman F 16 pilot.

    A quarter of a century later we should be able to recognise that women can fly as well as men.
    When I was learning to fly R22’s at Delta Heli in Luton, the first post-service flight was always flown by their female check pilot. She was a revelation of confidence and skill.
    The best RAF heli pilot I ever saw was a woman doing an extremely complex approach at Kemble in a Merlin.

    What is wrong with PIBS? (Pilot briefings)

What do you think?