Change is coming atop the Federal Aviation Administration as Congress nears a deadline for reauthorizing the agency’s programs and the taxes that help fund them. Marion C. Blakey, whose five-year term is up Sept. 13, will become the new president and chief executive officer of the Aerospace Industries Association. AIA, which announced Blakey’s appointment on Aug. 21, says she will begin her new job on Nov. 12.
Blakey’s departure from the FAA comes at a critical time. Congress faces a Sept. 30 deadline for passing an FAA reauthorization bill. For construction, a key FAA activity is its Airport Improvement Program infrastructure grants.
Congress has made a start on a new FAA bill. Measures have cleared the House Transportation and Infrastructure and the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation committees but the congressional tax-writing committees have yet to approve provisions to extend or change aviation taxes and fees.
When Blakey leaves FAA in September, Deputy Administrator Robert Sturgell will be named acting administrator, an FAA spokesperson says. According to Aviation Daily, at least two candidates are being considered for the agency’s top FAA post, including Barbara Barrett, formerly a deputy FAA administrator and vice chair of the Civil Aeronautics Board. (Aviation Daily and ENR are units of The McGraw-Hill Companies.) In addition, Sturgell is believed to have Blakey’s strong support for the administrator’s position. Steven Chealander, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board, also is thought to be a candidate.
Blakey has played an important role for the Bush administration in the reauthorization debate, including appearances at House and Senate hearings. “Marion has certainly done a wonderful job” in advancing the administration’s position on the new FAA bill, says Debby McElroy, Airports Council International-North America’s senior vice president for government affairs. But McElroy adds that Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters also has been “very active on the issue,” and says officials throughout FAA’s various branches are well versed on the wide-ranging reauthorization. “I don’t see a huge change” in the level of the administration’s activity on the new bill after Blakey leaves, McElroy says.
Before coming to FAA, Blakey was chairman of the national Transportation Safety Board. Earlier in her career she had been head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
At AIA, Blakey will succeed John W. Douglass, who has led the organization since 1998. AIA says that Douglass, a former assistant secretary of the Navy and retired Air Force brigadier general, will remain on board through Dec. 31 “to provide counsel and ensure a smooth transition.” Douglass had announced in May that he would be retiring at the end of December.