Robert “Bobby” Sturgell has been nominated by the Bush administration to replace Marion Blakey as FAA administrator. He has been serving as acting administrator since Blakey’s departure and was deputy administrator prior to that appointment.
None of the general aviation alphabet groups has shown any marked enthusiasm for Sturgell, who is a supporter of user fees and, indeed, worked closely with Blakey to develop the FAA’s user-fee-ridden modernization proposal. To the surprise of no one, the Air Transport Association, representing user-fee-hungry airlines, has been effusive in its praise for him.
Statements from organizations such as the National Business Aviation Association, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association have been terse, at best, avoiding the user fees issue and using carefully-chosen words to welcome Sturgell without actually praising him.
As one GA commentator observed, “It’s what I call praising with faint damns.”
EAA President Tom Poberezny, for example, commented dryly that Sturgell is “very familiar with EAA and our members’ enthusiasm for flight.” AOPA chief Phil Boyer said Sturgell “understands aviation from the pilot’s perspective.” NBAA released a one-paragraph statement from James Coyne describing Sturgell as “a distinguished aviator with a strong government background.”
The National Air Traffic Controllers Association, on the other hand, showed open hostility to Sturgell in its statement, castigating him for his role in the “systematic demise of controller staffing and abysmal labor-management relations.” NATCA will not support the nomination, declared its president, Patrick Forney.
A former fighter pilot who served with the National Transportation Safety Board before joining FAA ranks, Sturgell did win recent praise from general aviation leaders for supporting changes in the Washington, D.C., Air Defense Identification Zone, which made it easier for pilots to understand and deal with it.