Transportation Department Inspector General Kenneth Mead, a tireless ally of disgruntled airline passengers and often a thorn in the side of the nation’s airlines, resigned last month after nearly nine years to join a Washington law firm. The DOT has not yet named his successor.
Mead was also a strong advocate of general aviation safety. As recently as December, he called for renewed emphasis on reducing the general aviation accident rate, noting that the number of fatalities and accidents has remained fairly constant over the past few years. He urged GA to aspire to the improvements seen in railroad grade crossing fatalities, which have been cut in half over the past dozen years. “I’d like to see us set a goal like that in general aviation,” he said.
In his resignation letter to President Bush, Mead wrote, “The opportunities to see positive outcomes and results for the traveling public and taxpayer have been enormously satisfying.”
Before he became inspector general, Mead served for 22 years with the Government Accountability Office (Congress’s investigative arm), where he held the position of deputy assistant comptroller general for policy after having been the director
of transportation and telecommunications issues and senior attorney.
Since his 1997 confirmation, Mead has testified before congressional committees more than 200 times on major transportation issues, including the oversight and effectiveness of aviation programs, efforts to mitigate flight delays and congestion and bringing fiscal discipline to the FAA’s ATC modernization program. Mead also testified numerous times before Congress and the 9/11 Commission on the state
of aviation security before the attacks.
With his move to the private sector, Mead ended the longest stint as an inspector general in the nation’s history. One of his final projects is having his office investigate how well the nation’s airlines have enforced the so-called passenger’s bill of rights they created in 1999 to avoid congressional mandates on customer service.
The staff is also looking into other complaints that airlines do not offer enough seats for frequent-flier redemptions and sales promotions. In his resignation letter, he said the staff has “a steady moral compass and I will always remember this as
a model in my future endeavors.”
Mead, 56, will now become head of the transportation practice of the Washington law firm of Baker and Botts. A veteran of the Naval Submarine Service, he graduated from Southern Connecticut University and received his law degree from the University of South Carolina.