Watch: T-minus 3 (days)
With less then 72 hours until end of business on September 13th – the day FAA Administrator Marion Blakey is stepping down – Businessweek is running a scathing beat-down of Blakey on their web site. The headline and subhead says it all:
Fear & Loathing At The AirportThe Businessweek piece pulls NO punches, and goes right for the throat:
Long lines, late flights, near collisions—everyone is unhappy with the state of the U.S. air travel system. Unfortunately, no one, especially not the FAA, seems able to do anything about it
When Marion C. Blakey took over at the Federal Aviation Administration in 2002, she was determined to fix an air travel system battered by terrorism, antiquated technology, and the ever-turbulent finances of the airline industry. Five years later, as she prepares to step down on Sept. 13, it's clear she failed. Almost everything about flying is worse than when she arrived. Greater are the risks, the passenger headaches, and the costs in lost productivity. Almost everyone has a horror story about missed connections, lost baggage, and wasted hours on the tarmac.. More than 909,000 flights were late through June of this year, twice the level of 2002.
So why is it that we can put a man on the moon but can't fly him from Atlanta to Charlotte, N.C., without at least a two-hour delay? While Blakey bears some responsibility for the abysmal state of air travel, she follows a long line of FAA chiefs who failed to put much of a dent in the agency's to-do list. It's not a lack of money. Last year the FAA did not spend all of the money it was allocated. Nor is it a lack of knowhow. Existing technology could easily meet the demands created by the exploding number of fliers. Nor, for that matter, is it security concerns. Instead, it's a fundamental organizational failure: Nobody is in charge. The various players in the system, including big airlines, small aircraft owners, labor unions, politicians, airplane manufacturers, and executives with their corporate jets, are locked in permanent warfare as they fight to protect their own interests. And the FAA, a weak agency that needs congressional approval for how it raises and spends money, seems incapable of breaking the gridlock.In just a few hours, the Blakey era at FAA will be history, remembered as an agency that for the last five years has been taking their wheel spinning cues from FEMA. While Blakey's team were busy rearranging the deck chairs on Bush's Titanic, personnel problems with air traffic controllers grew far worse. This is the biggest problem facing FAA right now...the deadly scenario of retiring controllers being replaced with seriously disgruntled new hires. This is not a bunch of Wal•Mart bag boys ticked off because they have to go chase carts in the rain, no, this is gigantic, darkened rooms full of angry controllers pushing tin with your family crammed inside.