John E. Robson, former chairman of the Civil Aeronautics Board, yesterday urged President Carter to set up a special task force to reexamine U.S. policies and procedures in international aviation matters.
"We are encountering increasingly turbulent air in international aviation and have been trying to deal with various fundamental problems with a finger-in-the-dike approach that cannot successfully serve the long-range interests of our carriers, the traveling public, or our national economic objectives," Robson told the International Aviation Club yesterday.
Current problems stem from fragmentation in the decision-making policy with no clear detinition of who is to do what, a failure to weigh objectively the economic and foreign policy trade-offs of particular international aviation problems, ineffective analysis and planning, and a failure to use diplomacy as effectively with other countries, Robson said.
He suggested that a task force, with members from the government agencies now involved in foreign aviation decisions - the CAB and the Departments of State and Transportation - as well as appropriate nongovernment representatives, could survey the problems and submit a comprehensive report with specfic recommendations to Congress before the end of the year.
After that, he suggested, the appropriate congressional committees could hold hearings early in 1978 using the task force report as a focal point for considering possible changes in the way the U.S. conducts its international aviation policy.
Robson's recommendations come at a time when U.S. carriers flying abroad are increasingly complaining that foreign countries are discriminating against them - giving their own countries' carriers preferential treatment over U.S. carriers in such direct areas as landing fees, airport terminal positioning and passenger handling arrangments, in addition to indirect preferences in tax treatments, interest-fee loans, and subsidies for losing operations.
Robson yesterday said the U.S. government ought to overhaul its "aviation retaliatory arsenal" and not be reluctant to use the array of aviation and non-aviation economic and diplomatic levers available.
"The laws and procedures governing our ability to respond to discriminatory or improper treatment of our flag carriers at the hands of other nations are ambiguous and procedurally cumbersome and, in my view, preclude the effective protection and advancement of our legitimate interests," he said.
The U.S. already is in the midst of bilateral negotiations with the United Kingdom to work out a new agreement to govern air relationships between the two. The British served the one-year notice required last June that they wanted to terminate the Bermuda Agreement in effect since 1946.
Just as many of our major foreign aviation partners are rethinking their aviation policies and objectives, Robson said it is time for the U.S. to do likewise.
Although he would personally like to see competitive international aviation environment, Robson said the ability to operate in the international arena is "dependent on privileges conferred by sovereign nations whose philosophies, motives and economic objectives sometimes lead them to a very different approach.