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Tue, Oct 23, 2007

President Bush To Nominate Bobby Sturgell As Next FAA Administrator

Letter Groups Applaud Move; NATCA Unimpressed

ANN REALTIME REPORTING 10.23.07 1400 EDT: When searching for a replacement for former FAA Administrator Marion Blakey, President George W. Bush apparently didn't look very far. On Tuesday, reports surfaced the President plans to nominate Bobby Sturgell, currently the Acting FAA Administrator and previously Blakey's deputy, to take on the job full-time.

The action was met with a quick response from US Transportation Secretary Mary Peters, who applauded Sturgell's nomination.

"As a former fighter pilot with over three decades of aviation experience, Bobby Sturgell has worked tirelessly as Deputy FAA Administrator to fight congestion and modernize our aviation system while preserving the safest period in aviation on record," Peters said. "I urge the Senate to swiftly consider Bobby’s nomination and confirm him to a full five-year term."

According to his FAA biography, Sturgell was sworn in as the 12th Deputy Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration on March 24, 2003. In support of the Administrator, Sturgell oversaw the agency's day-to-day operations, capital programs and modernization efforts.

Sturgell previously served former Administrator Blakey at the FAA as her senior counsel. He held the position of senior policy advisor at the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), where he served as the Chairman's primary advisor and coordinator on the NTSB's recommendations, policy programs and other safety initiatives.

Prior to joining the NTSB, Sturgell was a flight operations supervisor and line pilot for United Airlines, flying the B-757 and B-767 in both domestic and international operations. Sturgell is also an attorney and has practiced aviation law at the Washington, DC law firm Shaw Pittman.

A former naval aviator, Sturgell was an instructor at the Navy Fighter Weapons School (Topgun) and flew the F-14, F-18, F-16 and A-4 aircraft. Now a Commander in the US Naval Reserves (Retired), Sturgell is a graduate of the US Naval Academy and the University of Virginia School of Law.

"Bobby has worked tirelessly to modernize our nation's air-traffic control system," White House press secretary Dana Perino said Tuesday, reports The Associated Press. "He has over three decades of real world experience in the field."

Industry Reaction

The Air Transport Association, lobbying group for the nation's largest airlines, also commended Sturgell's nomination.

"Bobby Sturgell is a highly respected leader of the aviation community. His distinguished and varied background, in both civil and military matters, uniquely equips him to serve as FAA administrator," said ATA President and CEO James C. May. "We look forward to working with him on the wide range of issues that affect aviation, including the ongoing effort to modernize the nation's air traffic control system."

Praise for Sturgell wasn't reserved for airline interests... as the Experimental Aircraft Association and National Business Aviation Association both weighed in favorably on the President's choice, as well.

"Bobby Sturgell understands the issues that face EAA members and has been engaged in those issues as Deputy Administrator under Marion Blakey," said Tom Poberezny, EAA president. "Bobby has also had the opportunity to join us at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh over the past several years, so he is very familiar with EAA and our members' enthusiasm for flight. We thank President Bush for moving quickly on the nomination and urge a speedy confirmation by the Senate, so work on important recreational aviation issues will not falter."

"Bobby Sturgell is a distinguished aviator with a strong government background, having served both at the National Transportation Safety Board, and at the highest levels of the FAA, and NBAA looks forward to working with him," a statement from NBAA read.

Phil Boyer, president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, also weighed in on Sturgell's nomination.

"We've worked closely with Bobby for more than five years and have found that he understands aviation from the pilot's perspective," Boyer noted. "He was particularly helpful in pushing through some of the latest changes that made the Washington, DC Air Defense Identification Zone a little easier for pilots to negotiate."

However, Sturgell's nomination was not met with universal praise. Stating the past five years have witnessed "the demise of the world’s safest and most efficient air traffic system," the National Air Traffic Controllers Association said Sturgell's nomination represents more of the same.

"The President's nomination for FAA administrator has been an integral part of this systematic demise of controller staffing and abysmal labor-management relations," said NATCA president Patrick Forrey. "Therefore, NATCA will not support a nominee that will continue to exhibit a management philosophy that demoralizes its valuable workforce to the point of leaving."



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