Administrator Blakey to lead AIA

 - August 30, 2007, 6:03 AM

FAA Administrator Marion Blakey will become president and CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) when her term as head of the agency ends September 13. AIA is an Arlington, Va.-based trade association representing the nation’s manufacturers of civil and military aerospace products.

She succeeds John Douglass, who will remain with AIA through December 31 “to provide counsel and ensure a smooth transition.” He has been president and CEO of AIA since 1998. Blakey’s appointment becomes effective November 12.

Blakey is the 15th Administrator of the FAA, a position she has held since September 2002. Before being named FAA Administrator, she served as chairman of the NTSB.

“We are very pleased to name Marion Blakey to the role of AIA president and CEO,” said AIA chairman William Swanson, chairman and CEO of Raytheon. “Her exceptional experience in the executive branch of government, as well as her deep expertise in public affairs and government relations, will greatly benefit all the members of AIA as she represents the industry in the years ahead.”

As FAA Administrator, Blakey has overseen the safest period for air travel in U.S. history. She has also been a tireless safety advocate internationally. She instituted solid business practices at the agency; on her watch more than 97 percent of the agency’s major programs came in on time and on budget. Under her leadership, the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) was launched and significant progress made toward its implementation.

But she has come under severe criticism by some FAA employees–most notably the National Air Traffic Controllers Association–for her handling of the new union contract, which she unilaterally put into effect last year after declaring an impasse in negotiations.

Blakey also has been criticized roundly (particularly by general aviation interests) for the Bush Administration’s proposal to fund the FAA over the next decade. To pay for NextGen and fund the agency’s day-to-day operations, the White House proposed, among other things, big hikes in aviation fuel taxes, eliminating the airline ticket tax and instituting myriad user fees.

As head of the FAA, Blakey had to sell the financing plan to Congress and the industry. One legislator blasted the plan as “dead on arrival”; another lawmaker said the Administration had put her in the position of having to “defend the indefensible.”

In addition to her roles at the FAA and NTSB, Blakey has held five previous Presidential appointments. From 1992 to 1993 she served as Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Before that, she held key positions at the Departments of Transportation, Commerce, Education; the National Endowment for the Humanities; and the White House.

AIA used an executive-search firm to find a successor to Douglass. In her new position, Blakey will be a high-profile spokeswoman for the civil aerospace
industry and contractors to the Pentagon. The association’s more than 100 members include Boeing, General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Textron and United Technologies.

Blakey’s successor at the FAA has not been named. One name that keeps cropping up is Barbara Barrett, a former deputy FAA Administrator under President Reagan.