AIN Blog: Quotes from the Clipping Room Floor

 - October 29, 2011, 11:28 AM
U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Anthony G. Crutchfield
U.S. Army helicopters are in "heavy, heavy demand," Maj. Gen. Anthony G. Crutchfield attested at the AUSA conference in early October.

So often in the course of covering events, journalists hear statements that never make it into published accounts. Space is limited, time is limited, or the comment is peripheral to the rigid formula of news reportage—who, what, where, when and possibly, why.

It’s unfortunate, because speakers in public settings often offer insight into their inner thoughts and workings through candor or emotion, intentionally or not. I’ve returned from many a speech or briefing with an abundance of notes and recordings, only a sliver of which survives to the printed page or computer screen. Allow me to take advantage of the free-form platform of a blog to recall some recent interesting comments that otherwise would have fallen to the clipping room floor.

Maj. Gen. Anthony G. Crutchfield, commander of the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence at Fort Rucker, Ala., led a panel of three generals and one colonel during a press briefing at the Association of the U.S. Army conference in early October. The issue that dominated was the Army’s plan to forgo a new-build program and evaluate available helicopters for its armed aerial scout requirement. A reporter asked of no one in particular, “whether you completely kind of missed the opportunity to actually carry out some of these aviation acquisition programs now, before the budget axe falls.”

An animated Crutchfield reached for the microphone. “In short, no I do not believe that the time has passed for us to do this, no I do not,” he said. “And here’s why I believe that. The first thing is, this branch is the most heavily demanded enabler in the Army today. We have as many or more helicopters deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan as we did at the height of the ‘surge.’ We are in heavy, heavy demand, and we can’t get enough. Second, the modernization programs and the dollars associated with those modernization programs are holding. Even in a period of declining resources, the monies for those modernization programs are holding for Army Aviation. So I don’t think we’ve missed anything.”

Nicholas Calio, president and CEO of the Air Transport Association, shared with the Aero Club of Washington his impressions since taking over as head of the powerful organization representing U.S. airlines in January. “I appreciate the opportunity … to talk about what, in the last nine months, has been my job and has become my passion and my frustration—the state of the airline industry in the United States and government’s role in it,” said Calio, a former Citigroup executive.

“[W]hat I really did not understand or appreciate was the degree to which the industry has been mired in a rut of government neglect and sometimes misguided, and sometimes downright punitive, policy actions for years and years. Nor did I know the degree to which various stakeholders recognized the industry’s predicament and talked for years and years about the key issues without successfully executing practical steps forward to really address the problems.”

Karen Escobar, assistant U.S. attorney for the eastern district of California, the state’s largest judicial district, successfully prosecuted the district’s first laser-pointing case involving aircraft. The culprits were a man and woman—both methamphetamine addicts—who, for kicks, harassed a Kern County, California, Sheriff’s Department MD500E with a $50 laser pointer purchased at Radio Shack.

“The advantage to going federal is we have a few [legal] tools to play with,” Escobar told an audience peppered with law enforcement officials at the Air Line Pilots Association laser threat conference. “We have a significant hammer: 20 years and a fine of up to $250,000. Since most of the people that we deal with are low-lifes, they never have any money, so the fines don’t apply. But the prison term is a strong deterrent.”