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]