When a senior executive, especially one in the current Bush White House is in trouble, there’s nothing like a little good PR to help balance things out. Trouble is, it can be pretty tough to convince a reporter – especially one for a national newspaper – to take the time to say good things about a politician when almost everyone knows it’s fluff. You know those fluff stories … when the poor beaten upon politician is shown to be a real human like the rest of us by holding puppies and kittens or playing with kids.
So when the Washington Post’s Christy Goodman wrote the glowing piece on FAA’s Bobby Sturgell – on Sunday no less – you know that someone at the Post must have owed someone at the DOT or the FAA a favor big time. But a good public affairs person at FAA or DOT gets paid precisely to make the case for these kinds of stories.
While I appreciate the fact that Bobby was a Navy pilot able to plunk an airplane down on a moving aircraft carrier at night in IFR weather – how many of us can do that? – he is still not the person to run the agency even in good times. While I’m sure he reads books to his son at night when does get home – I love a dad that does that actually – it has nothing to do with his qualifications to run an agency that is as screwed up as the FAA.
Right now, FAA is living through a nightmare of the worst credibility gap in its 50-year history, a mess in which our friends at the airlines and business aviation, not to mention the agency’s own employees like controllers and inspectors are being beaten up severely for much of what is the agency’s fault to begin with. And Sturgell has been at the helm during the worst of it.
Bobby. You’re a nice guy I can tell from Christy’s story … really.
But FAA has problems that are way beyond what you can do to fix them on your own. As a PR guy, let me tell you too that Bush appointee Mary Peters support for your nomination really isn’t helping your case either.
The beginning of a fix to the FAA won’t even start – I should have said maybe start – until the current White House tenant leaves next January.
In all honesty, none of the candidates – Republican or Democrat – has said much of anything about where aviation fits into their agenda either. That should make everyone in this industry more than a little nervous.