Marion Blakey Takes On New Role as Captain Obvious

Government Regulation

Marion Blakey, outgoing Grand Poobah at the FAA, gave her farewell speech to the Aero Club this week, and her comments make me throw my arms up in the air with frustration.

The big issue right now is delays (duh), and the FAA needs to be proactive in fixing these problems. 07_09_12 blakeythoughtsBut instead of outlining what the FAA could be doing, she pushed it back on to the airlines where we know it won’t get fixed.

You know you’re in trouble when the speech contains gems like this one. “I predict passengers will continue to be fed up with delays, and that’s got to be taken more seriously by all of us and particularly our airlines.” Holy crap – amazing revelation! But don’t worry, she’s on it: “If airlines don’t address this voluntarily, don’t be surprised when the government steps in.”

I WILL be surprised, because you guys don’t seem to be in a hurry. It’s clear the airlines won’t address this voluntarily. JetBlue isn’t going to reduce schedules at JFK unless they know Delta and American will do the same. And it’s not like they can all get together in a room and talk about that legally.

So until the airports and airspace can be designed to handle the amount of traffic that needs to be supported, the FAA is going to have to step in. They know this, but they aren’t doing anything about it. They’re just talking and that does nothing. Unfortunately, we know Marion Blakey is checked out. She’s done in a couple days and she’ll be on her way to a nice fat lobbying job. It’ll be up to the next administrator, which rumors say could be Mike Levine. Now there’s a guy that would be interesting in this position. He could actually get something done here. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

UPDATE 9/12 @ 205p: Someone suggested I might give a little more background on Mike Levine. If you’d like to know more about him, head to this link.

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5 comments on “Marion Blakey Takes On New Role as Captain Obvious

  1. It really is about time someone said something to refute the rhetoric about the “antiquated” or “outdated” or “1950s era” ATC system being to blame for the delay crisis. Funny that it should be the FAA bringing some perspective, because the agency has been (at least passively) helping spread the “antiquated” myth.

    The airlines have been pushing this line, and FAA has not denied it (and at times agreed with it). So the mainstream press, naturally, has totally bought it. They should think about what the motives of the airlines/FAA might be.

    What do you think the airlines would like us to believe about delays? That they are caused by overscheduling, or that its because of the antiquated ATC system?

    I’ve been covering ATC for quite a while now, and I don’t believe its accurate to call the current system outdated. FAA is in the middle of a wave of modernization efforts on which they have spent billions of dollars. Many have already been completed and are being used every day. Modernization has been a continuous process at FAA.

    Everyone is talking about our current glaring lack of an ADS-B system as evidence of our backwardness. But what other country has an operational, systemwide ADS-B system instead of radar? And has our use of radar advanced a little since the 1950s?

    Think about it — say a mythical “NextGen” system could immediately give us 10% more capacity. What do you think would happen to that brand-new 10% capacity? Would it get filled by more flights, or would airlines agree to leave it as a buffer to help reduce delays? How willing have airlines been in the past to cap or reduce flight numbers at airports to help reduce delays?

    The main push by FAA and the airlines right now is to overhaul the aviation funding system. So if the current system is antiquated, that’s another argument for funding reform (more money needed for the “NextGen” system etc.) It’s true that the current system needs to be changed so corporate aviation pays more of its share. But lets not get diverted by the “antiquated” rhetoric.

  2. I have not been covering ATC for a while, I have been living it. As a 17 year vetern with the FAA, all the time spent as an en route controler, I have seen this agency take a nose dive right into the “crapper” over the last 5 years. I firmly believe that Ms. Blakey is to blame. A woman with little to no ATC knowledge running an agency that is all about ATC? Well thats politics for you. The fact that she finely told the airlines that most of the delays are their own fault is astounding. Politicians usually don’t tell the truth, and never want to make big business mad. Too bad she didn’t have the nads to say it 5 years ago, maybe things wouldn’t have gotten so bad.

    You are so rights that the FAA has spend a lot on Modernizing the system over the last 7 years, however, all of it is outdated. When the FAA starts developing a new system they start with things that are cutting edge at the time, however it usually takes 3-5 years to implement any new system, so by the time it is put into operation, it is outdated. But we worker bees will use it and make the best of it, because that is the type of people we are, HARD WORKERS.

    The one thing you don’t touch on about ADS-B is that the FAA has told us, the controlers, that it will be here by 2016, 9 years from now. However, they have no idea what it will contain, how it will function, or even what services it will provide. The FAA is a long way from answering those questions, therefore it is even further from coming up with hardware for “NextGen.”

    The main push by the FAA may be to overhaul the funding of the system, but you need to ask yourself “how?” No one within the FAA can answer the hard questions like: How will you charge for services, how will fees be collected, what about additional services?? and so many others. I have seen the FAA and the Bush Admin point to Canada, and say “If they can do it, we can do it,” all the while ignoring the fact that all aircraft leave Canadian airspace (to avoid fees), including Air Canada flights, as soon as possible fly through US airspace for as long as possible, only returning to Canadian airspace when they must. That system doesn’t work!!!

  3. What the FAA hasn’t told you Elizabeth is that by 2016 you won’t need to know about ADS-B unless you are working for a government contractor.

    Let’s be clear about some obvious truths. The sole motivator within the FAA is, and has been for some time, the intention to outsource the FAA and patronize big business.

    The Clinton administration, as part of reinventing government, set the stage for outsourcing of the FAA when, in the mid 90’s, they designated the FAA as not “inherently governmental”. This action moved the FAA workforce out of the scope of title 5 civil service rules and set the stage for FAA management to begin outsourcing. The bush administration took the next steps by empowering FAA management in the 2002 FAA authorization to impose contracts on labor and removed MRSP appeal rights and to initiate A-76 outsourcing. Next came reorganization with Russ Chew, a former Airline executive, to create the Air Traffic Organization a model designed to reorient the FAA to customer service as opposed to regulation of airlines. This new approach created an organization designed to partner with airlines, the very groups the FAA should be regulating, to now make them customers and “stakeholders”. Then contracting out begins three years ago when A-76 contracted out of flight service stations. It is my understanding now that the 1.6 billion ADS-B contract also includes maintenance provisions so the FAA has begun contracting out the maintenance of systems as well.

    Let’s look at who has been running the FAA for the last five years an administrator who is now being investigated by independent watch groups for ethics violations. Mrs. Blakely is “appalled” that anyone would question her ethics when she leaves public service and immediately joins the lobby group that provides the largest contracts and services to the FAA. Of course Mrs. Blakely has issued a declarative statement that she was not directly involved in past negotiations for service and we should accept that as director of the agency she did not influence any such activity. She was the voice and driving force behind shifting revenues away from airlines, our customer, and championed the largest leap in modernization in FAA history. Now she works for the represents the very corporations she was charged to regulate and now she will lobby for the bulk of contracts for this new age of modernization.

    Why is this happening? Is it reasonable to assume that the safety of American public will best be served by contractors who bow only to profit margins? Is it reasonable to accept that the low bid contractor will offer the best and safest national air system? Is it reasonable to assume that contracting out services will truly be cheaper or has history shown time and again that such actions only start out cheaper until you calculate cost overruns and added requirements to contracts. Is it reasonable to assume that Airlines, profit based business, can objectively manage themselves and still serve the public interest as well as provide gain to their shareholders? Is it reasonable to assume that executives who create and champion policy can serve two masters?

    The government will contract out FAA services unless congress acts and they have with the new authorization. The real issue begins with the first question. Should our airspace system remain under the control of government or should it be bid to private industry? Does it deserve checks and balances of the government system, as bureaucratic as that may be at times, or can we assume that contractors can provide the needed service in an acceptable way?

    I’m Sorry Elizabeth but if the present course continues, you won’t need to know anything about ADS-B because there won’t be an FAA in 2016.

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