Bush to Name New FAA Head

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Bush will name Blakey as FAA head Wednesday

The anxiety that has plagued the aviation industry for months is finally coming to an end. As early as tomorrow the Bush Administration will name Marion Blakey to replace Jane Garvey as head of the Federal Aviation Administration. Blakey, who has been chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board for less than a year, is a smart choice. Though she doesn't have much direct aviation experience, Blakey is a veteran Washington hand, a former Transportation Department (which houses the FAA) official, and a successful businesswoman who ran her own public relations firm for years. Blakey has gotten high marks in her short tenure at the NTSB, the agency which investigates aviation accidents, and is sure to bring her p.r. savvy to the oft-criticized FAA, one agency in Washington that could really use the help.

Blakey steps into big shoes: Garvey, who is not only the first woman ever to run the FAA but also the first to fill the post for its new, five-year term, has done an exceptional job in working with the airlines and the general aviation community on safety and technological innovation. She also brought organization and analysis to the FAA that allows the agency to spot potential problems before they develop into safety issues. Garvey has also kept a lid on the sometimes petty requests that come from Capitol Hill and she's even transformed some Congressmen into actual promoters of the FAA. Most important, Garvey leaves Blakey with some of the best deputies the FAA has seen in years, including Nicholas Sabatini, who heads the crucial department that issues safety rules and regulations.

That's not to say Blakey won't have challenges ahead: many aviation safety experts are concerned that the current emphasis on security will lead to a let down in the vigilance and spending that is necessary to keep the U.S. system the world's safest.