John W. Magaw, the federal cop picked just six months ago to head the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), suddenly resigned yesterday. His replacement is retired Adm. James M. Loy, the former commandant of the Coast Guard who was appointed to the number-two position at TSA just last May.
"Adm. Loy comes into the job knowing something about transportation," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "Not only does the Coast Guard have an air wing, but it also deals with recreational boaters. Their concerns about access to the national transportation system and security regulation in many ways parallel the concerns of general aviation pilots."
Boyer had the opportunity to talk directly with Adm. Loy during an industry meeting today. "He is very personable," said Boyer, "and very interested in the concerns of pilots. During our meeting, I complimented Secretary of Transportation Mineta for picking a new TSA head who is willing to engage the aviation industry."
TSA is going to play an increasingly more intrusive role in general aviation. As the agency expands its security mandate, it will look more closely at such things as pilot licensing and general aviation airport security. And TSA is already the controlling force on many airspace decisions, determining where flight will be prohibited.
This now means that new leaders will head the two agencies most critical to general aviation pilots, the FAA and TSA. Fortunately for GA, AOPA has already opened the door with both of them.
The rap against Magaw, according to press reports, was that he was too much the cop. The former head of the Secret Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms didn't always take the concerns of the transportation industry into consideration. Many lawmakers and members of the aviation community felt that Magaw had populated TSA with ex-cops who didn't understand aviation and who ignored advice. And Magaw had never managed a large bureaucracy before. Adm. Loy has a reputation as an astute politician and a good manager.