The 1970 movie Catch 22 is based on the Joseph Heller novel of the same name. It is an exceptional tale of Yossarian, a B-25 bombardier during World War II. His attempts to be grounded from flying missions are confounded at every turn by the Army-Air Force’s Catch 22, and this leads him on a vicious circle of reconciling his dwindling sanity in an increasingly insane world. The movie and novel are listed as both drama and comedy, but there is absolutely nothing funny about it.
Catch 22 can be analogous to what has been going on these last two years (going on three years); no one in their right mind would have conceived of such a far-fetched tale as believable. Yossarian symbolizes the struggles of Every Man. In the story Every Man is a B-25 bombardier whose commanding officer keeps raising his allotted missions before he can cycle out. His efforts are blocked by feckless religious leaders (Chaplain Tappman); medical personnel (Doctor Daneeka) who are afraid to draw attention to themselves by challenging the inept leadership (Colonel Cathcart); an opportunist (Milo) who impassively makes money off the demise of others (Nately and Snowden) and numerous colleagues who accept quietly what is going on. The story begins as satire, almost quirky, before it rapidly descends into dark gloom.
All actions produce consequences that must be dealt with; sooner or later, they cannot be ignored. In a complex twist of fate, one could only call ‘bizarre’, life imitated art; the US Federal government moved towards weakening its moral fiber by dismissing civil liberties for the purpose of pushing a vaccine even the Federal Drug Administration refused to approve. During this two-year-plus comedy of errors, less qualified physicians damaged the reputations of more experienced doctors and nurses who were protecting their patients; these selfish physicians ignored studies that showed the vaccine’s safety had come into question, pushed the vaccine on children, all the time ignoring the science. Religious leaders of all denominations deserted congregants, abandoning them to crises of faith. Members of the Military and first responders were demonized. The media, on both sides, turned the nation into a 24/7 battlefield for ethical superiority while the opportunists watched their bank accounts swell. In aviation, safety was dismissed for capitulation.
As we moved towards summer 2021, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) aviation safety inspector (ASI) position became unrecognizable. For over two years, vital internal FAA office audits were discontinued; this was the FAA quality assurance program in place for over fifteen years. Flight Standards offices remained all but empty of personnel; enroute inspections were minimized to ineffectual levels; certificate holder surveillance was conducted from a desk at home; FAA management forbade onsite inspections; safety investigations were executed from hundreds of miles away and visual inspections were reduced to the 90˚ angle of a camera.
My job conducting investigations required onsite surveillance, mainly with issues demanding impartiality. In June 2021, I investigated an operator’s ground operation. It took weeks for permission to enroute to the destination and physically visit the ramp, something I did normally before COVID. When I arrived onsite, I was not allowed within 100 feet of the airplane, and I could not talk to the pilots because of COVID restrictions, not even through plexiglass. How is onsite surveillance conducted without access to the gate or the airplane? How does an inspector understand the issues without talking to personnel?
In late summer 2021, when a return to normal was still pending, the government employee became the second of many to be ordered to take the COVID vaccine. The first were the military – take the vaccine or face dishonorable discharge. The third were any government contractors – take the vaccine or be fired. After that it was open season for any and all workers in any industry whose employers were ‘woke’ enough to think that taking unapproved vaccines was wise, because politicians and opinion media said so. ASIs started saying that ‘FAA’ stood for ‘Forgot About Aviation’. Upper management’s arrogance and indifference reached critical mass, so I put in my retirement paperwork.
To be clear, the vaccine was mandated while government employees were still working out of their homes – and would continue to be – without any threat of exposure. Many contractors, again, worked out of their homes and would remain doing so through spring 2022. Just like Yossarian’s missions, the number of months were extended – again – before the COVID ‘crises’ would end. The vaccine was proving to be ineffective and enforcing the mandate far exceeded government powers; it was more intrusive than the futile mask requirement. Bureaucrats were forcing professionals in all industries and citizen protection to comply with the mandate or lose their livelihood and benefits.
In direct violation of the Nuremberg Code of 1947, Constitutional rights were violated. First responders in many states were threatened with termination if not vaccinated, while politicians and celebrities socialized in direct violation of the federal and state governments’ laws. Many favorable to vaccination argued that decisions, such as the Jacobson versus Massachusetts (J vs M) Smallpox epidemic case (1905), gave authority to force vaccination. However, smallpox vaccines were developed by Edward Jenner in 1796. Smallpox vaccines were effective, while all COVID vaccines were still unapproved and experimental. They were superseded by the Nuremberg Code of 1947. J vs M did not apply.
Religious exemptions were left up to review and acceptance by government officials, who felt they could override the doctrines of conscience between the faithful and their Creator. After submitting a religious exemption from my Diocese, FAA management stipulated the Request for Religious Exception to the COVID-19 Requirement questionnaire be filled out, which infringed on religious confidentiality.
While my retirement was being processed, FAA’s upper management believed that each FAA ASI, analyst, engineer, lawyer, etc. would eventually succumb to ‘vaccine logic’, roll up their sleeves, take the COVID vaccine and the boosters, then move on. FAA management shut down conversation; division meetings were non-existent and were replaced by deliberate silence. Medical privacy became the new threat, either download a program that gave management access to all an employee’s personal medical information or face disciplinary action, including termination.
The results of these actions caught management off guard. Despite warnings from past managers and experienced executives, FAA’s upper management pushed on like bulls in china shops, shrugging off the employees’ concerns. Instead of a dispirited workforce, those who could not separate lost all trust in their management teams because management had demoralized all their experienced professionals.
One month after I officially separated, I was asked to answer a post-retirement survey questionnaire. After I submitted my questionnaire, the reply came back thanking me for the input, despite the delay in getting the survey to me over a month late, because “The volume of the separations was so high.” The letter continued, “We lost so many good inspectors due to the [COVID] mandate.”
To those who feel that these FAA persons were nothing but self-centered children whose choices should never have been tolerated, you missed the point. No matter where one comes out on the validity of vaccines, this wasn’t a walk out, e.g., the 1981 PATCO strikes. These separations were not the result of union demands for higher pay; there were no exigences for quality-of-life improvements; these retirements and returns to the industry were not the results of negotiation breakdowns. The Federal government’s position was, ‘If you do not take the vaccine, we do not want you. Your medical condition is irrelevant. It is unimportant if you suffer vaccine after-effects, fear for your family’s well-being or you have a conflict of faith, leave now or we will fire you.’ This was an echo of what had already been faced by the military, medical first responders, law enforcement and fire rescuers.
How safe will aviation be since the FAA forced many of its best people out? The mandate was the one straw too many; separations began long before autumn 2021. Why? Because FAA upper management disingenuously focused attention away from aviation safety and redirected the mission to being diverse and inclusive, two unqualifiable topics that cannot further aviation safety. Wasn’t the FAA diverse before? Yes, the FAA – and the industry – were diverse since before I entered the industry in 1982. FAA upper management created a problem where no problem existed, just to be ‘woke’.
However, to be open-minded, what does Inclusive mean? Not just the definitions we pick and choose but all of them, even the inconvenient ones. According to Merriam-Webster, the second definition of Inclusive is “including everyone, especially: allowing and accommodating people who have historically been excluded (as because of their race, gender, sexuality, or ability).” I’ve been in this industry for forty years and have not seen anyone excluded for race or gender. As to sexuality, who gives a flying leap through a rolling donut about anyone’s sexuality? That leaves ability. Questions: Can a blind Asian woman be a Quality Control inspector? A deaf Hispanic man fly the left seat? Does race and gender eclipse physical handicap? I admit I may not understand, so if anyone knows how diversity and inclusiveness equal aviation safety, please explain it to me, and please do so factually.
How safe is aviation? ‘Experts’ say, “No major accidents – we’re super safe.” While an aviation mass formation exists that says, “Everything is O-K,” we ignore reality like we ignore flight attendant safety briefings. Since 2020, the FAA reduced onsite visits to almost zero, isolated regulators from certificate holders and ended FAA office internal audits. FAA management’s new task? Hiring new-hires to replace – not only workers who left due to the vaccine mandate – but to account for normal retirements every month. Will the FAA lower its experience and industry knowledge standards for manpower needs? Will new hires get paid as much as those who separated? How will industry react to the FAA being understaffed and in a perpetual state of training? How safe is aviation now?
Bureaucrats on both sides of the aisle have created a self-destructive environment; by their actions we now have consequences that they cannot – will not – fix. Those pressured to separate, will not return. To those forced to remain behind, they know that they were demoralized; upper management has dismissed the workforce; citizen rights were too easily disregarded. Threatening loyal professionals with the ability to care for their family was the weapon of choice. Attacks on the civil liberties of the military, first responders, law enforcement and professionals who protect us, only cultivated complacency.
In Catch 22, one pilot, Orr, told Yossarian he would take care of him, but Orr was the one pilot Yossarian wouldn’t fly with. Why? Yossarian thought Orr was crazy. Ironically, Orr had solved the Catch 22 enigma and spent the rest of the war safe in Sweden.
It is telling that those who saw the mandate’s insanity for what it was were called ‘crazy’, that in spite of all the disparaging names thrown around, the vaccine’s safety is now under question. Prestigious medical professionals like Doctors Peter McCullough and Robert Malone are breaking through with information. Joe Rogan was attacked for challenging the status quo with questions. Now, with possible war with Russia, a new question should be asked: “With the military having been forced out by the mandate, are we ready anymore?” Multiple vacuums left by the loss of experienced professionals, military personnel and first responders will become obvious.
How safe is aviation now? Time will tell.