I used to work for a manager who stood approximately 4′ 10″. Maybe. In lifts. On a good day. Yes, the dude had a Napoleon Complex. Worst I’ve ever seen. One day, as I was departing the control tower in my car, I spied Mssr. Napoleon driving the opposite way, toward the control tower. The window of his Ford Thunderbird was down, and he was frantically rolling it up just as my car hit a huge puddle of water. Too late. Mssr. Napoleon was drenched. Excusez–moi, mon général.
We got out of our respective cars, and Mr. 4′ 10″ stalked over my way. He said in a stern voice, “I’m not happy.”
To which I replied, “Okay. Then, which one are you?”
I know. Old joke. It didn’t really happen, but I did once tell him during one of his many irrational rants and rages, “Hey! Don’t get short with me.” Almost as satisfying as the first story, but not quite. At least this second story has the virtue of having actually transpired. In front of witnesses. Who desperately and unsuccessfully tried to stifle their concerted chuckles. Which only made Mssr. Napoleon even angrier.
Today, it is I who is not happy. And here’s why: Regular readers of this blog have been shown on more that one occasion the damage former FAA Administrator Marion C. Blakey did to the FAA in general and to this nation’s air traffic control system in particular. Her policies endanger people on a daily basis, and will continue to do so for perhaps another full decade to come, maybe even longer, and that can be directly shown by the nationwide increases in controller errors and some really close calls and near misses.
But let’s take a look at what happened just this week. The National Aeronautic Association (NAA) is the official record keeper of all things aeronautical in the United States. They determine who is the fastest, highest, flies the farthest, and climbs the quickest for everything from balloons to spaceships. Their most prestigious award, and the one with which people are most likely familiar, is the Collier Trophy. They give out a plethora of other lesser-known trophies and awards, including one called the Henderson Trophy, which is named after Clifford W. Henderson.
The Henderson Trophy is awarded to: “ . . . a living individual, group of individuals, or an organization whose vision, leadership or skill made a significant and lasting contribution to the promotion and advancement of aviation and aerospace in the United States.”
This year’s winner of the Henderson Trophy is . . . drum roll, please . . .
NAA, you simply have got to be kidding.
So, NAA, what happened? Couldn’t get anyone actually worthy of the trophy to agree to show up at the award dinner this year? Or, perhaps, you’re going alphabetically and this year it was time to select a “B”? Or, as is most likely, is it that you people didn’t even know that Marion C. Blakey:
- Failed in all attempts to bring on-time and on-budget so much as even one air traffic modernization project because she booted all the users (air traffic controllers) off the development teams and wound up with systems that subsequently didn’t work or were outright dangerous?
- Negotiated while FAA Administrator to become the CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), a trade group representing the same entities she was charged with regulating in her position as FAA Administrator? (Ever hear the term, “Conflict of interest,” NAA?)
- Awarded AIA member Lockheed Martin most of this country’s Automated Flight Service Stations (minus the ones in Alaska) , which resulted in an immediate and complete collapse in service while costing U.S. taxpayers far more than if that service had been retained in house?
- Caused a mass-exodus of experienced controllers out of the agency, resulting in system-wide shortages of certified, competent controllers?
- And in so doing increased air carrier delays to astronomical levels nationwide until the Great Recession helped abate the impact of her total mismanagement? (How long do you think that decrease in traffic is going to last, NAA?)
- While serious controller errors went through the roof to levels never before seen in this or any other country?
- Even after the agency wiped off the books the most common classification of errors with a creative accounting scam called the “proximity event?
You guys over at the NAA really didn’t know all this stuff before you even nominated Ms. Blakey for the Henderson Award? Do you people have any idea how foolish you’re all looking right now to those of us in the know?
But don’t just take my word for it:
- Get The Flick blog: Blakey Honored — I Object
- The Praxis Foundation: Marion Blakey and NAA’s Cliff Henderson Award: An Open Letter
- Martinlady’s View Through the Looking Glass blog: Blakey – Blech!
If I were a past Henderson Trophy winner, I do believe I’d be sending mine back. This year’s winner pretty much makes it worthless for anything but a paperweight.