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SSA Board Chairman Jim Short, Government Liaison Chair Steve Northcraft and Judy Ruprecht, staff support, met with FAA Administrator Marion Blakey in Washington March 13 in her ninth-floor aerie at 800 Independence Avenue SW.

We knew that Blakey is not a pilot, but as an Aviation International News writer phrased it after Blakey's Senate confirmation last Fall, she is "well plugged into the Bush Administration, having served appointments in the Reagan and first Bush Administrations. She is also considered a close political ally of Andrew Card, the White House chief of staff. Her connections with the President's hierarchy are considered a plus for the FAA..."

(Marion Blakey - Photo courtest of the FAA)

What we didn't know was when and how the situation then brewing - and now unfolding - in Iraq would inspire a stepped-up security alert and - forseeably - a focus on general aviation security issues. Most importantly, we wanted to know how Marion Blakey perceived soaring and SSA in all this.

Access to airspace and airport utilization are longstanding issues in soaring, Short told Blakey, noting that, "These priorities are even more important in an era when, with DHS involvement, sport aviation as a whole and soaring in particular need to have a meaningful voice in aviation security issues."

In response, Blakey said, "The approach we intend to take in FAA is one of giving great attention to all aspects of aviation and yes, soaring is part of that. Moreover, I think soaring is emblematic, if you will, of the American spirit. It's a form of sport aviation that should be encouraged in every way. Whether in improving FAA programs or working through security issues, if there are things we can do, let us know!"

We intend to do just that, Ms. Blakey!

...and interested SSA members will soon read more on our interview with the FAA Administrator in SOARING.

- Judy Ruprecht, SSA Government Liaison Staff

Posted: 3/22/2003 By: Government Liaison Committee

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