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Who's the next FAA chief?

With FAA Administrator Marion Blakey closing her FAA office door for the last time on September 13, many members are asking who's next to head the FAA?

Deputy Administrator Bobby Sturgell becomes the acting administrator until a new FAA chief is appointed and confirmed by the Senate.

"Bobby is a military and airline pilot who knows a rudder from an aileron," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "We've worked well with him, and he was a key player in helping push through the latest improvements to the Washington, D.C., Air Defense Identification Zone."

Whether he gets the job permanently is up to President Bush. With the Democrats in charge in Congress, Bush will have a difficult time getting any candidate confirmed who is viewed as controversial or overly political.

And as to Blakey's tenure? Boyer said, "It's been an interesting five years."

Updated: September 13, 2007, 5:06 p.m. EDT

Blakey blames airline delays on scheduling practices

Jaws dropped during FAA Administrator Marion Blakey's farewell speech on September 11, just days before she officially leaves her post.

About halfway through the speech to an industry group in Washington, D.C., she blamed airline delays on scheduling practices, not air traffic control. Further, she even hinted at government intervention if the airlines don't shape up.

"The airlines need to take a step back on scheduling practices that are at times out of line with reality. Passengers are growing weary of schedules that aren't worth the electrons they're printed on. Airline schedules have got to stop being the fodder for late night monologues," Blakey said. "And if the airlines don't address this voluntarily, don't be surprised when the government steps in."

The government's own data show that weather and scheduling are the major causes of delays, yet the airlines have been trying to pin the delays on business jets. At the airports with the highest delays, general aviation accounts for a small percentage of the traffic.

"It's great to see the administrator sharing these facts," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "The capacity problem has to do with runways, and airline scheduling is a major factor."

Blakey's comments also got the attention of a powerful leader on Capitol Hill.

"While I wish Administrator Blakey would have made these remarks in January, when they might have had some effect on the summer travel season, I guess they are better late than never," said Rep. Jerry Costello (D-Ill.), chairman of the House aviation subcommittee. "As she also noted, the FAA has all the authority it needs to take action in regard to scheduling and delays, as it has done in the past. I have been making similar points all year."

The aviation subcommittee will once again discuss aviation consumer issues at a hearing on September 26.

"Examining what the airlines are doing to address delays and why the FAA has failed to step in to address the scheduling issue will be a major focus of the hearing," Costello said.

Blakey steps down on September 13 at the end of her five-year contract.

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