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Wed, Sep 12, 2007

FAA's Blakey Puts Airlines On Notice

Frankly... We Were Shocked, Too

It was a speech the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association called 'jaw-dropping.'

On Tuesday, outgoing FAA Administrator Marion Blakey (shown above at AirVenture 2007) took the nation's airlines to task over this summer's record number of flight delays and cancellations... saying if the airline industry doesn't take meaningful measures to improve its performance, the government will step in and do it for them.

"Passengers are growing weary of schedules that aren't worth the electrons they're printed on," Blakey told a group of aviation executives at the Aero Club in Washington, DC. "Airline schedules have got to stop being the fodder for late-night monologues. And if the airlines don't address this voluntarily, don't be surprised when the government steps in."

The tone of Blakey's speech was a marked departure from the Adminstrator's past sympathetic -- some would say chummy -- tone towards the nation's airlines.

A spokesman with the Air Transport Association, trade group for most of the nation's airlines, sounded a bit miffed about it, too.

"No carrier is going to be willing to reduce its schedule unless we see that industry addresses all of the causes of delay," ATA spokesman David Castelveter told The Associated Press.

As ANN reported, airlines posted their worst on-time performances ever through July of this year, at least out of the 12 years the Department of Transportation has kept such statistics.

Blakey cited increasing congestion over the East Coast as a prime example of what happens when airlines over-schedule, and under-deliver.

The Administrator -- who leaves the FAA Thursday, and will take a position as president of the Aerospace Industries Association in November -- didn't do a complete about-face from earlier positions espousing user fees for general aviation... especially corporate operators.

"Flying to and from wherever you want whenever you want is not a free utility," she said. "You need to expect to pay for it."

Those statements were music to the ears of the ATA's Castelveter.

"The guys who fly around in private jets" make up about 40 percent of the air traffic in the Northeast, he told the AP. "One would think it's not just airlines that would be asked to reduce capacity."

AOPA replies the government's own data show weather and scheduling are the major causes of delays -- not the skies being thick with bizjets, as the airlines continually assert. The pilot advocacy group notes 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."

FMI: Read The Aero Club Speech, www.faa.gov, www.aia-aerospace.org, www.aopa.org

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