Babbitt: Excellent Choice for FAA Administrator

 - May 1, 2009, 6:31 AM

I hope that by the time you read this Randy Babbitt will have been confirmed by the Senate and be hard at work on the 10th floor of 800 Independence Ave. He’s an excellent choice to lead the FAA through these turbulent times in the aviation industry. He has the technical expertise as a pilot, the confidence of the unions and experience as a successful businessman. And he’s personable. People in and out of the agency will find him easy to deal with, and he’ll definitely have that critical, within-the-Beltway skill–the ability to testify compellingly before Congress.

I have a few things I’m looking forward to Randy addressing. One is the people issue at the FAA. The agency has been torn by union rancor. Right or wrong, the heavily unionized workforce– especially the air traffic controllers–has been unhappy. I believe that Randy’s union credentials will go a long way toward ending the internal friction. I’ve always believed that a happy workforce is a more productive workforce.
Since he is the appointee of a Democratic administration, I expect his relations with the Democrat-controlled Congress to be much smoother. The FAA and Congress need to work together if aviation is going to thrive again soon. Congressional hearings can be helpful at exposing faults in an agency, but they can also paralyze an agency. We don’t need paralysis right now.

Finally, I’m hoping Randy will be the first Administrator to tackle my pet safety mission–ensuring the accuracy of maintenance manuals. It may be a surprise to pilots–whose flight manuals are tested rigorously–that maintenance manuals undergo no such scrutiny. I travel the country–heck, the globe– talking to mechanics and virtually all of them can recite a litany of examples where the maintenance manual was just plain wrong. Some have even tried to get the manuals corrected–to no avail. That scares me. I hope it scares him, too.