An Olive Branch With Spikes

In this mornings Mirror article (here), Joe Justice states that he will use the additional income from the $150 per non-local flight to the schools to reduce the price for students learning to fly.  I mentioned this possibility in my earlier post (here).  This may well lead to disaster.

In many ways the Mirror article quotes could be seen as a very public advertisement seeking new flight school students based on the price reduction the City is going to kick in.  At the recent City Council meeting (Item 8-D) discussions, Martin Pastucha told the Council and public that the flight schools were forbidden to use this plan to advertise for more business.  With the Mirror story this morning, that promise has already been broken before the plan has even been finally approved.

Objectionable as it might be, it might almost be better if Justice and the other flight schools pocketed the profit than this.

The city subsidies will result in it becoming cheaper for people to learn to fly at SMO than elsewhere, so we can expect that the result will be an increased number of students signing up to fly, with the inevitable consequence that there will actually be more flight activity at SMO than there was before.  How does City Staff plan on monitoring this effect in their evaluation of the plan’s success?

This in turn would drive up the projected cost of city subsidies, and should the subsidy program be cancelled, as it inevitably would have to be as more and more students take advantage of the cost reductions and the SMO flight traffic levels spiral upward (as do flight school profits), the end result would be that the city had succeeded in making things far worse for the community around SMO as all these additional students revert to pattern flying right here.

If you start to feed a monster, you can never stop or it will turn on you.

Council approval of this plan, well intentioned though it might be, will most likely result in making life measurably worse in the long term for the community around the airport.  It is to be hoped that the Council does not approve this plan when next it comes before them.  The ‘olive branch’ that Joe Justice so cleverly crafted back in September 2011 appears to have some vicious and poisonous thorns in it.  The Council would grasp it at the City’s and the community’s peril.