Transcript excerpt from questions to FAA Acting Administrator ‘Bobby’ Sturgell

June 5, 2008 at 11:41 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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FAA current and pro tempore Acting Administrator ‘Bobby’ Sturgell went to LaGuardia Airport’s Marine Air Terminal in Queens, NY on Thursday May 22, 2008 and made some comments.  To encourage you to skim through the entire text, here are a few samples of ‘unsettling’ remarks Sturgell made in response to reporters’ questions after his not altogether coherent speech.  The full and extensive transcript was released by Quiet Rockland today, 6 June 2008, in FAA’s Bobby Sturgell to New York – “DUHHH!”

[REPORTER QUESTION: Paraphrased – “But what about the Newark incidents of wrong-way departures, which you are saying is a ‘very safe procedure, happens all the time’ – why are the air traffic controllers saying otherwise – when planes depart in the wrong direction, is THAT ‘common’?”]

FAA Acting Administrator Robert Allan (“Bobby”) Sturgell:

“So… that… that is not common. I will say it… it happens. It’s a pilot deviation.

“In the one particular case you mentioned, the… the controller gave the pilot the correct heading. The pilot acknowledged that command, and then [the]… the pilot did something different. [‘K]… Occasionally that happens. The system is not perfect. And so there [wi]… that incident will be investigated. It, it, ya know, we, if… if that’s the way it shakes out… uh… uh… we will be talkin’ to the… the pilot and to the carrier. Um… on runway safety [clears throat] ya know, we put a lot of focus on runway safety and I wanna talk about that in a minute, because it is related to this… um… to some of the pilot issues we’re seeing.

“Um… beginning last August [2007] we issued a call to action to the community and to ourselves to… uh… further improve upon the gains we have made in the area of reducing serious runway incursions. And I’m proud to say that we’re seeing those achievements… ah… uh… we’re seeing our… uh… serious errors, serious incursions come down. Uh… but one of the issues we are seeing is similar t[uh]… something… you described, which is the whole interaction between the controller and the pilot where clearances are given correctly and acknowledged but… uh… occasionally… uh… much, much less than occasionally… uh… the pilot does something different. Now we only have… um… a… a handful, uh… I think less than 5 incidents this year involving commercial carriers. The majority of this and the vast majority historically involves private aircraft – general aviation operations. So we’re working with the associations that represent those people. We’re working directly with the pilot community. But we’re also focused with the carriers in… organizations like the Airline Pilots Association… uh… because… uh… of the complexity around some of our major airports. [Uh…] we’re going to continue to focus on these issues. And as controllers bring forth safety issues, and we certainly want them to do so, we will analyze them and we’ll address them.

[REPORTER QUESTION: Paraphrased – “What about new airline surcharges and rising fuel prices – how can airlines in this country remain viable if fuel prices don’t go down?”]

FAA Acting Administrator Robert Allan (“Bobby”) Sturgell:

“Well it’s… it’s obviously a pricing [unintelligible]. I think the rate… [uh]… increase in the baggage is directly related to fuel cost. Uh… and I think some of the activities that the airlines are doing with respect to capacity reductions are also directly related to fuel cost and addressing inefficient routes or inefficient flights or older aircraft that are less fuel-efficient than some of the current aircraft that… uh… the carriers are using. If… if the price continues, I suspect you’ll see… uh… an increased combination of the segmentation of pricing… Um… you’ll see other changes to capacity. Uh… but I suspect in the end… uh… there will also have to be price adjustments for the passengers as well.

[REPORTER QUESTION: Paraphrased – “What about the intersection between airlines’ financial dire straits on the one hand, and safety lapses on the other hand – are you concerned?”]

FAA Acting Administrator Robert Allan (“Bobby”) Sturgell:

“Well as… as… ya know, as the regulator one of our risk areas does turn to… uh… the financial state of a particular airline. So as we see, ya know, increased issues around… uh… finances for a particular airline, we will adjust our oversight plans to make sure we’re taking that into consideration as a risk factor. But I… y’know, I think the airlines are… are taking the right steps… uh… with their maintenance. They… the review we have been doing continues to show a very (very) high compliance rate in the neighbor – [hood] of 98 to 99 percent and we’re now at the point about 3,500 audits during this review process. Ya know, my… my worry, and what I focus on is that 1 or 2 percent and how things… uh… ya know, did not reach the 100 percent level. But… um… look, the airlines know they’re in a safety business and we have been partnering with them over the years and we continue to partner with them, and these collaborations and partnerships are a very, very important part of the safety of the system.

“Pilot deviations” are rather unnerving.  “Price adjustments for the passengers” have already happened (try booking with BA or Virgin now, and read more in 


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