Comment and analysis on all things Charlotte

An airport audit

The audit report on Charlotte Douglas International Airport that City Manager Ron Carlee ordered is out, and the results are predictable. The report found weak oversight — imagine that — and has the usual suspects trying to spin what it all means.

And some quotes from the UPoR:

[Interim Aviation Director Brent] Cagle attributed the poor oversight to rapid growth. Charlotte Douglas’ traffic shot up 80 percent in a decade.

“The phenomenal growth of the airport outstripped our internal controls,” said Cagle, who became interim director last year. “It was everything we could do to keep the lights on and the doors open, and that’s what we focused on.”

He attributed the airport’s problems to “growing pains” similar to what might happen as a mom-and-pop store grows into a major corporation. But he said even unintentionally poor management is a problem that must be fixed.

“It erodes confidence,” Cagle said, “and we need to restore that.”

Bulls***. There are many ways to measure growth, and Cagle is using the measure — passenger volume — that best fits his argument. If you look at other measures of airport activity, you’ll find much more modest growth. For example, aircraft operations — takeoffs and landings — totaled 269,069 in the first half of 2014, compared to 251,081 in the first half of 2006. That’s a 7.2 percent increase. What we’ve seen is US Airways adding some flights — combined US Airways/American Airlines flights totaled about 542 a day compared to 670 a day this summer for a 24 percent increase over eight years — but even more so increase capacity by replacing smaller aircraft with larger planes. So apparently US Airways replacing its 125-seat Boeing 737-300 with 189-seat Airbus A321 somehow overstressed airport staff. Who knew.

CLT was a major hub in 2004. Hell, it was a major hub in 1984. Having inadequate procedures in place is simply unacceptable even if it hasn’t yet resulted in fraud. That said, Brent Cagle could do much to rebuild confidence in the airport by stop telling such preposterous tales.

Which, of course, brings us to Jerry Orr. Even if Cagle says the audit report wasn’t all about Orr, it was.

“It looks to me like they spent a half a million dollars to try to discredit me, and ended up shooting themselves in the foot,” Orr said.

Perhaps, but Orr still doesn’t get it. The airport’s problem had long been Orrism, allowing the airport to operate under the unquestioned leadership of Jerry Orr, Great Giver of Aviation. Anything that increases oversight and strengthens internal procedures is an important step forward.

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