Throughout the year, Aviation Week & Space Technology reports on developments across the aerospace and defense industry—the setbacks as well as the successes—using the editorial page to put issues into their larger contexts. We always try to call them as we see them, going so far as to bite the hand that feeds us when we think such commentary is deserved. We believe our readers expect nothing less. And so, to the winners and sinners of 2011, we offer cheers and jeers for the considerable achievements and for the significant embarrassments of the last 12 months.
Cheers to U.S. President Barack Obama for pulling the trigger on the daring Navy Seal raid on fugitive al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Obama could have taken the safer route, using airpower to destroy the Pakistani house where bin Laden was hiding, but the world may have never known that he had been killed. However, we jeer Obama for his bombastic attacks on the business jet industry, an attempt to score political points at the expense of a vital industry that employs thousands.
Cheers to theprogram for completing its first shipboard trials on the USS Wasp with two F-35Bs, but jeers to the program for multiple travails (see p. 30), including failing to start pilot training at Eglin AFB, Fla., this year, as planned, and for tardiness in developing software critical to declaring operational capability. Meanwhile, defense officials in Switzerland, earn our cheers for conceding that the is not the biggest bomb-dropping, missile-toting fighter on the block, but endorsing it as good enough and praising its low life-cycle cost.
To the NATO collation that conducted the air campaign that helped insurgents in Libya to rid themselves of the odious, murderous dictator of decades, Col. Moammar Gadhafi, we offer cheers. And more cheers to the Arab League for endorsing the effort against a member state and to Qatar for contributing actual aircraft.
Jeers all around for the mess over the EU's emissions trading system (ETS). To the EU itself for its unilateral approach to a global problem, acting in violation of the Chicago Convention and then donning the thin rhetorical fig leaf of not being a party to that agreement—even though all its member states are. Crossing the Atlantic, we offer jeers to U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) for introducing bills that would prohibit American carriers from participating in the ETS, thus fomenting a trade war.
gets cheers for launching three big missions this year with the Juno Jupiter space probe, Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (Grail) and Mars Science Laboratory. But jeers to for slipping the James Webb telescope, hitting the restart button on human space exploration and bailing out of the Mars exploration project with the European Space Agency. It all adds up to no more big missions at NASA for perhaps a decade. While we look to orbit, we cheer the U.S. Air Force and for finally deploying the Advanced Extremely High-Frequency and Space-Based Infrared System satellites but follow with resounding jeers because they are both years late and billions of dollars over budget
Cheers tofor its smart strategy. In eight months it won more than 1,000 orders for the single-aisle airliner, forced to hurriedly launch a competitor and put a huge roadblock in front of 's . Further cheers to Boeing's 787 program, which made its first delivery after a torturous delay of more than three years. Ditto for the program, which has completed its certification, seen eight freighters delivered and is on track for the first passenger delivery early next year. But for the Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China, jeers for failing to meet its 2011 deadline for certifying the regional jet. And cheers for Bombardier, , , and Gulfstream, for continuing to invest in new models of business aircraft even as that industry remains stuck in a painful downturn.
Jeers to the FAA for the continuing budget and timetable problems with the En Route Automation Modernization program, a vital precursor to the NextGen air traffic management architecture, and to EU member states for their appalling lack of progress in implementing the Single European Sky to cut ATM costs and airline emissions. And jeers to lackadaisical civil aviation authorities of Indonesia and the Philippines for failing to get their respective countries off air safety blacklists.
Jeers, jeers and more jeers to the 112th U.S. Congress, the most partisan—and dysfunctional—in recent memory. In refusing to compromise on raising taxes or reining-in unaffordable entitlements, lawmakers have left the Pentagon facing $1 trillion in automatic budget cuts. In a remarkable focus on the fine points while ignoring the big picture, Congress continued to insist on funding weapons systems year-to-year, making programs less efficient, and then failed to pass defense appropriations bills in a timely manner.
Spreading its collateral damage to the civil side of aviation, Congress continues to fail in its responsibility to craft a long-term funding plan for the FAA, a dereliction of duty that dates to 2007. By failing at one point to pass yet another temporary funding extension, lawmakers put 4,000 civilian workers and 70,000 others in airport-related construction out of work for weeks over the dispute about funding the FAA. Then lawmakers left Washington for a five-week summer vacation. But cheers go to airport inspectors who kept working without pay and even dug into their own pockets to cover travel expenses.
To end on a literally and figuratively uplifting note, we cheer the Veterans Airlift Command, the organization that provides free air transportation to wounded U.S. veterans and their families for medical care through a national network of volunteer aircraft owners and pilots.