Marion C. Blakey will start her first full day as FAA administrator on Monday. The Senate unanimously confirmed her appointment late last night. A top FAA official told AOPA that Blakey, the former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, will be shifting between agencies through the weekend. She will be sworn into office today or tomorrow.
"Ms. Blakey had a solid record at the NTSB, and in our interactions with her, she seemed eager to work with the general aviation community," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "We are looking forward to her assuming leadership next week."
AOPA has already established a working relationship with Blakey. "Although she is not a pilot, she does have a keen interest in aviation and extensive experience with transportation issues," said Boyer. "I've found her to be extremely personable and very politically astute. In my 11 years as AOPA president working with more than half a dozen FAA administrators, I've found the one quality most important for the FAA head is the ability to work effectively with both parties in Congress and with the top levels of the administration."
Blakey has also served in the Reagan and the first Bush administrations. She is a close political ally to White House Chief of Staff Andy Card. That is particularly important because during the aftermath of September 11, the FAA did not always have direct access to the people in the White House who were making decisions about the nation's aviation system.
Blakey has held four presidentially appointed positions. She has served as the administrator of the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration and as a Department of Transportation official.
Blakey has been at NTSB less than a year. She took over shortly after the September 11 terrorist attacks and had to deal with the crash of American Airlines Flight 587 less than two months after her confirmation. Prior to her appointment to NTSB, she ran her own Washington-based public relations firm for eight years, specializing in transportation issues. Her clients included an organization representing airports.
Blakey is the second woman to hold the post, and the second to serve a five-year term (Jane Garvey was the first in each of those categories). AOPA had successfully lobbied for a fixed term for the FAA administrator. The five-year term is intended, like the Federal Reserve Board chairman's six-year term, to remove the position from political intrigue.