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January 24, 2008
 
       
 
 

FLYING HIGH AGAIN

 

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Marion Blakey may not be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but we know she can patrol the skies, having just completed a five-year term as head of the FAA.  Now she's head of something else:  the Aerospace Industries Association, with 275 corporate members like Boeing and Lockheed.  She started two days before AIA's annual fall meeting in Phoenix, and her feet have barely hit the ground since.

 

We assumed Marion's FAA status must have gotten her a free pass at airport security lines, but it was just the opposite.  She says security personnel "wanted to prove they were doing their jobs to the letter,"and gave her rigorous inspections.  On her departure, Transportation Security Administration chief Kip Hawley awarded her the dubious—but framed—honor above:  "Selectee for Life," i.e., one of those poor souls somehow always singled out for frisking.

 

This isn't the first time that Marion has been thrown into a job—she was sworn in as Chairwoman of the NTSB two weeks after Sept. 11th, 2001.  The FAA appointment came a year later, and she says the pressure of being responsible for the nation's air safety was unrelenting.  "It's a job that knocks all the corners off you," she says, recalling regular 3:00 a.m. calls about air-traffic issues.  Still, she wanted to stay in the aerospace field, and when Korn Ferry came calling with the AIA possibility last summer, things happened quickly.

 

How about these fun facts: Marion has two approach patterns named after her: one at National Airport (MRION) and one at an airport in Alabama (BLKEY). And when Marion's grandmother taught music in Tupelo, Mississippi, one of her students was none other than Elvis Presley.

 

Historically, the AIA has been oriented toward the defense and space segments of the industry, and a number of its previous leaders came from military backgrounds.  (Marion is succeeding John Douglass, the former number two commander at NATO and Assistant Secretary of the Navy.)  Marion's selection reflects, in part, a shift taking place:  Revenue from commercial aviation has been trending upward and now represents 60% of aerospace industry receipts.

 

At a Sept. going away party at Georgetown's City Tavern Club, with American Airlines government affairs head Will Ris

 
Marion has 55 staff at her disposal to accomplish an array of goals at the AIA. A primary focus is pushing the implementation of a satellite-based air traffic control system.  (Hmm, if we haven't had that, no wonder she didn't get any sleep at the FAA.) Other broad goals include educating the public on the importance of the aerospace industry, which boasts the largest manufacturing trade surplus of any sector, and advocating for the maintenance of U.S. supremacy in manned space missions.  The U.S. shuttle program is scheduled to end in 2010, while the Chinese government had proclaimed it's committed to putting a man on the moon. Sounds like a job for a high flying superhero.  
 
 
 
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