FAA Administrator Resigns, Becomes Airline Industry Lobby Group CEO

Marion Blakey, FAA administrator, resigned from her position today to become the CEO of an airline industry lobby group. She spoke to NPR. Here’s some of her interview:

NPR: I know the stats say that about 1/3 of all flights are late. Why hasn’t the FAA been able to do anything about this?

Blakey: The FAA does not control all of that. The question of delays go to several different categories and I think we have to give a healthy dollop of responsibility in each category. One: Mother Nature. This summer we have had the worst thunderstorm season we have had in recent memory.

In addition to that, passenger traffic is back. Everyone wants to fly. That means the airlines are scheduling a lot of flights, and they’re all full. So, when one is delayed you don’t have the back up that you can put people on because the next one is full.

NPR: I understand that, but why not place a limit on the number of take-offs and landings at airports during peak hours?

Blakey: You know as a country, a long time ago, we decide against a heavy regulatory policy in terms of putting caps on numbers of flights and having a regulatory approach, and the result of that was low-fare carriers, a lot of flights, a boom in aviation…

If it’s necessary,from time to time, at a few airports, the government has stepped in. It may have to happen again at a few airports, but it is ultimately not the best solution.

NPR: In your final speech, you warned that airlines have to sort of “self regulate” on this issue or there will be more limits on take-offs and landings.

Blakey: What I said was that the airlines need to voluntarily look at their schedules more carefully as to whether or not, at some airports which are our most congested, their schedules are comparable with reality.

When you see over and over that you’re running at only 60-70% on-time, that tells all of us something, and I think they can do a number of things to de-peak their schedules.

The real solution in the long run is a new air transportation system that is satellite based, automated, a new air traffic control system. Because the way we’re operating right now keeps aircraft very far apart in terms of separation, with very mechanical standards, using very old technology. 1960s technology! Radar goes back to World War II.

Marion Blakey leaves her job as FAA administrator to lobby for the Aerospace Industry Association. She says it is not a conflict of interest.

FAA Administrator Steps Down After Rough Year [NPR]


Edit Your Comment

  1. d0x says:

    When will the administrator of the FDA go work for Phillip Morris? Not a conflict of interest? Give me a break.

    I guess it really depends on exactly what she is lobbying for…but who would know such things?

  2. joeblevins says:

    Certainly it isn’t a conflict of interest. You stay friendly to the industry you are supposed to regulate and you get hooked up!!!

    Happens a lot. Not sure what you can do about.

  3. TechnoDestructo says:


    Well, if you feel strongly enough to throw your life away for it, there’s a lot you can do about it.

    It’d be nice if you couldn’t work in an industry you regulated for a few years after leaving the government. (At least above some particular pay grade) But then the government would probably have a hard time finding employees.

  4. Alger says:

    Are you sure this isn’t a joke? When I saw this, I thought I was reading the Onion or something.

    Are you SURE this isn’t a joke?

  5. ju-ju-eyeball says:

    There is a special place in hell for people like her that sell their souls for the all mighty dollar. She has no integrity.

  6. timmus says:

    FDA heads go to work for pharmaceutical companies as executives, while military officers retire and take top positions at Raytheon and Lockheed. Sadly, it’s common enough to get its own name — the revolving door: [www.sourcewatch.org]

  7. nequam says:

    I’m not sure the AIA is accurately described as an airline industry lobby group. It looks like they are focused on manufacturing with an emphasis on defense contractors.

  8. Sonnymooks says:

    Good luck to her, and I wish her all the best.

  9. bambino says:

    Fuck her.

  10. thepounder says:

    @Sonnymooks: Succinctly put.

    @bambino: Succinctly put.


    No conflict of interest… Whatever.

  11. BK88 says:

    FTA:”The real solution in the long run is a new air transportation
    system that is satellite based, automated, a new air traffic control
    system. Because the way we’re operating right now keeps aircraft very far apart in terms of separation, with very mechanical standards, using very old technology. 1960s technology! Radar goes back to World War II.”

    BullSh!t. Do you want airplanes closer than 5 miles when cruising at
    30,000-40,000 feet? Do you want to be closer than 3 miles apart when
    landing? Would you like the airplane landing ahead of you to exit the
    runway before you land? If so, the standards cannot change, PERIOD.
    They are there for safety. You want more capacity? Build more Runways!!!!

    (end rant)

  12. Beerad says:

    I’m not sure why everyone’s crying “conflict of interest.” Sure it’s a conflict, IF SHE HAS BOTH JOBS SIMULTANEOUSLY. But she doesn’t. Of course she’s going to be friendly with and have contacts with people from her government position — that’s exactly why she’s qualified to be a lobbyist. It’s not like she retains decisionmaking authority over the FAA after she leaves the government.

    Now you want to decry the influence of lobbyists in our system, that’s one thing, and I’m totally with you on that. I just don’t think it’s fair to lambast this woman for the purportedly “shady” act of taking a job she possesses the requisite skills and knowledge for, at a salary much higher than whatever Uncle Sam was paying her.

  13. OwenCatherwood says:

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention this gem:

    “Passengers are growing weary of schedules that aren’t worth the electrons they’re printed on,” Blakey told a group of aviation executives at the Aero Club in Washington, DC. “Airline schedules have got to stop being the fodder for late-night monologues. And if the airlines don’t address this voluntarily, don’t be surprised when the government steps in.

  14. OwenCatherwood says:

    Bad Consumerist/Gawker! Don’t eat your poster’s links: [www.aero-news.net]

  15. chili_dog says:

    What if we all were required to enter fields that were completely different from what we knew how to do when changing employment??

  16. phobs says:

    If you play ball you get to retire to a cushy corporate job. This happens too often with our elected and appointed officials. Way to sell out.

  17. spinachdip says:

    @Beerad: I’m not sure if we can call her shady, nor do I know if it’s a clear cut case of conflict of interest, but it’s at least a little bit disturbing.

    Look, it’s not like she put her resume up on Monster.com after she left her FAA give and AIA found her. Over the last weeks or months on her job, she was negotiating for and then agreed to the AIA position while she was still paid to represent the interests of the public. That has to affect her objectivity just a little.

    An even bigger concern is what this means for other FAA officials. If you worked for the FAA and you knew that if you played nice, you could get a golden parachute from the airline/aerospace industries, you might decide you want to play nice with the big corporations and lobbyists.

    Plus, as an CEO, she obviously has influence over executive hires. She’d want to hire people she knows, right? Possibly her former colleagues at the FAA? You wouldn’t want to alienate her, would you?

    Obviously, once she severs her relationship with the FAA, you can’t stop her from finding a new job. That doesn’t mean we should feel okay about it, though.

  18. spinachdip says:

    @chili_dog: I think there’s a difference between going from, say, one IT job to another, and going from a position of regulating an industry to being a mouthpiece for said industry.

    Sure, there are plenty of non-evil reasons for hiring a former bureaucrat and I can’t begrudge the lady for taking the cushy private sector gig, but you can’t pretend there isn’t a substantial level of ickiness to it.

  19. chili_dog says:

    An appointee at this level is hardly a regulatory individual. They are purely a political animal doing the bidding of the current administration and as such, this is the kind of thing that happens. And in 10 years, when the administration of Fred Thompson is “letting out” we will hear all about it again.

  20. jamar0303 says:

    @BK88: No, there are plenty of existing runways that aren’t being used. Move some international flights to airports in the Midwest and South; those places have under-used airports.

  21. BK88 says:

    @jamar0303: You are partially correct. They need more runways where airlines have there hubs and where passengers want to fly out of.

    British Airways already has flights to many cities in the US to London, not just from JFK.

    But you don’t get the bigger picture. It is easier for the airlines
    to fly people from all over the country to one or two hubs, and then be
    able to fill up the highly profitable jumbo jet going over seas. Its
    like how FedEx and UPS do there overnight sorting, send it all to one
    place and then send them back out. It’s much cheaper for them that way.


  22. jamar0303 says:

    @BK88: I do suppose you’re right. What I was thinking was that if they’re overbooking even jumbo jets (747/777) then they should be having smaller planes flying from another location (so that passengers could have an international hub closer to them and also so that flights from the big hubs wouldn’t be overbooked). Not easy for the airlines, but it would be much better than the current situation.

    I guess my idea didn’t originate from any normal place, though. It came about when I was walking through the Nashville airport and wondered why the signs were in Japanese as well as English/Spanish when they didn’t have any flights to/from Japan.