AIA’s Marion Blakey and Jetwhine Editor Agree … for Once

By Robert Mark on February 8th, 2008

I apologize if what I’m about to say causes anyone to cough up their lunch, but I’m going to completely agree with something that former FAA Administrator and now current Aerospace Industries CEO Marion Blakey said a few months ago.blakeyx Yes, agree … at least with some of her thoughts. 

The reason I’m bringing this up is that her comments directly relate to the confirmation committee hearings in DC yesterday for Marion’s former deputy Bobby Sturgell to become the next administrator of the FAA.

The hearings were just this side of a train wreck with the consensus being that the entire nomination process for Sturgell needs to take a little time out.

In an AIA news release, Blakey was critical of Congress for failing to confirm Sturgell before they left for the Christmas holidays … and she was right to do so. For the moment, I’ll ignore her political hyperbole about how well qualified Sturgell is to lead the agency, a place that ranks 29th from the top of the worst places in government to work. There are only 30 agencies on the list BTW.

Edited slightly for length, Blakey said, “A decade ago, Congress established the FAA administrator position with a five-year term to provide the stability and continuity necessary for an agency that is focused on safety and complicated operational responsibilities. Since then, both administrators have served full five-year terms … it is critical for the continued smooth operation of our nation’s air transportation system to have a person confirmed and appointed for a five-year term as soon as possible.

Blakely hit the nail on the head, but garnered little press for her comments in December.

The point of a five-year administrator in good times is to provide for some overlap between White House administrators who might consider removing an administrator who leans the wrong way, except in cases of gross incompetence. It was designed for continuity in an industry that is dynamic by its very nature.

Right now while the aviation industry may be building lots of airplanes and selling plenty of fuel and avionics, the system we operate within is in serious trouble. And the lack of a permanent administrator is making a bad situation worse as we struggle with how to build NexGen, how to pay for it, how to hire, train and retain enough air traffic controllers to keep our archaic ATC system functioning and a host of other potential pot holes along the airways.

We need an administrator. And we need one now.

I will certainly agree with Senators Lautenberg and Menendez, that Sturgellbio_sturgell is not the man for the job however, so here’s where Marion and I will need to disagree … significantly.

She believes that a man who has played the FAA game most of his life and knows where all the bodies are buried at 800 Independence Ave. is the best person to continue to run the agency.

I think Bobby Sturgell is the worst possible choice for administrator, quite honestly.

While my guess is that Sturgell is probably doing the best job he can right now in all honesty, his skill set is focused around business as usual because that’s what he understands best. I’m sure he actually believes he’s thinking outside the box, but as we say in the real world, the results just aren’t there. At FAA though, people keep getting paid the same every two weeks whether they’re any good or not.

In the private sector they simply say a senior official has decided to pursue other challenges and they simply move on.

Mr. Sturgell’s dedication is simply not good enough. Our system has technology problems, labor chaos and severe money issues to deal with.

And Now for Something Completely Different

So please President Bush, and those of you on the Senate Commerce and Transportation Committee, … please find us a different administrator, one who has a decent change of actually fixing the problems our industry faces. We’d really listen to a man or woman who might like to try something a little different to break up the log jam we’re all facing.

We just can’t handle any more of the same thing we’ve been seeing for the past eight years. My guess though is that come November, things are going to be shaken up quite a bit anyway. Even more the reason we need some stability at FAA now.

And Marion, how about lunch soon? We can go Dutch.


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One Response to “AIA’s Marion Blakey and Jetwhine Editor Agree … for Once”

  1. John J. Tormey III, Esq. Says:

    Citizens in Rockland County, New York – as well as citizens in New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, and Pennsylvania, and elsewhere – were mouth-agape aghast while watching “Bobby” Sturgell’s evasive and false under-oath testimony and answers today on February 7, 2008, to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. We have thanked Congress for making Mr. Sturgell’s webcast testimony and the proceedings available to all of us, real-time, and now archived, through RealPlayer software, on the Senate website.

    “Bobby” Sturgell arrogantly insulted Senators Boxer, McCaskill, and Lautenberg – among all of the rest of us – with his persistent utter refusal to answer the most simple of direct “Yes or No” questions. Sturgell made Watergate conspirators sound like they testified on sodium pentothal, by comparison. Senator McCaskill asked the core essential question: “Do you think air traffic controller fatigue was a contributing factor[?]” to runway incursion mishaps – and the slipperiest of eels, the eel of Sturgell, the Sturg-eel – sought to squirm away with the scripted slime of non-answers.

    “Bobby” Sturgell, acting FAA head for three months, testified that he had no prior knowledge of the San Diego aircraft near-miss a few weeks ago?


    Sturgell testified that he had no prior knowledge of recent Newark, NJ departures flying out in the wrong direction in the past few weeks?


    “Bobby” Sturgell’s nomination as proposed FAA Administrator should not be confirmed. Instead, after he first personally apologizes to Senators Boxer, McCaskill, and Lautenberg, “Bobby” Sturgell should then be INDICTED – for contempt of Congress, for rendering perjured testimony under oath, and for already putting millions of otherwise-innocent and unsuspecting Americans in harm’s way. I have now faxed every Senator on the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, asking them to please refer this matter to the AG, IG, GAO, and a Special Prosecutor – and to please now cook this eel.

    John J. Tormey III, Esq.

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