The biggest construction issue facing Blakey will be next year's reauthorization of "AIR-21"—the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century. That statute sharply increased funding authority for Airport Improvement Program construction grants. In the new bill, industry is sure to seek even more for airport grants than the $3.4 billion AIR-21 authorized for 2003.

(Photo courtesy of National Transportation Safety Board)

Blakey, who has been chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board since last September, had seen her confirmation delayed over an 18-month-old labor dispute, not of her making.

At her confirmation hearing, Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) said he was concerned about a labor contract covering 2,000 unionized FAA employees. Kerry said a deal was struck between the Clinton administration and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) shortly before Clinton left office in January of last year. But the contract still has not been made final.

AFSCME didn't oppose Blakey's confirmation, says Daniel Kaufman, a spokesman for the union. "It wasn't an issue of her qualification to be the new FAA Administrator. It was an issue for us of this contract being stalled, an issue of employee morale dropping." He says the union "wanted to extract from Ms. Blakey [a pledge] to take a look at this contract and sign it...."

Though the contract still is unresolved, AFSCME did make its point about the importance of the issue. "I think that was the main thing," says Kaufman. He had said there were several Senate "holds" on Blakey's nomination.

As FAA Administrator, Blakey, 54, succeeds Jane F. Garvey, who left office in August when her five-year term expired.

Blake had led the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration during the last several months of the first Bush administration. From 1993 to 2001, she was president of her Washington, D.C., consulting firm.

ith reported Senate "holds" on her nomination lifted, Marion C. Blakey has been confirmed as head of the Federal Aviation Administration. Senate approval came on Sept. 11, by unanimous consent.