Karl Rove, Adviser to President Bush, to Resign
By Peter Baker and Debbi Wilgoren
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, August 13, 2007; 7:34 AM
Karl Rove, the architect of President Bush's two national campaigns and his most prominent
adviser through 6-1/2 tumultuous years in the White House, will resign at month's end and leave
politics, a White House spokeswoman said this morning.
Bush plans to make a statement with Rove on the South Lawn this morning before the president
departs for his ranch near Crawford, Tex. Rove, who holds the titles of deputy chief of staff and
senior adviser, has been talking about finding the right time to depart for a year, colleagues said,
and decided he had to either leave now or remain through the end of the presidency.
"Obviously it's a big loss to us," White House spokeswoman Dana M. Perino said this morning.
"He's a great colleague, a good friend, and a brilliant mind. He will be greatly missed. But we
know he wouldn't be going if he wasn't sure this was the right time to be giving more to his family,
his wife Darby and their son. He will continue to be one of the president's greatest friends."
Rove, 56, who escaped indictment in the CIA leak case, has been under scrutiny by the new
Democratic Congress for his role in the firings of U.S. attorneys and in a series of political
briefings provided to various agencies across government. Citing executive privilege, he defied a
subpoena and refused to show up for a congressional hearing just two weeks ago on the
allegedly improper use by White House aides of Republican National Committee email accounts.
Fellow Bush advisers have said they believe the congressional probes have been aimed in part at
driving Rove out.
The White House said his departure was unrelated to the investigations. In an interview published
this morning, Rove told Wall Street Journal editorial page editor Paul A. Gigot that he had been
interested in leaving last year but did not want to go immediately after the Democrats took over
Congress, nor did he want to abandon Bush as he fought for his troop buildup in Iraq and an
"I just think it's time," Rove told Gigot in comments confirmed by the White House. The Journal
said White House Chief of Staff Joshua B. Bolten told Rove and other senior aides that if they
stay past Labor Day, they would be expected to remain through the end of the second term, Jan.
"There's always something that can keep you here," Rove said, "and as much as I'd like to be
here, I've got to do this for the sake of my family."
Rove said he was finished with political consulting and plans to spend much of his time at his
house in Ingram, Tex., with his wife, Darby, and near their son, who attends college in San
Antonio. He said he plans to write a book about Bush's years in office, a project encouraged by
the president, and would like to teach at some point, but has no job lined up for now. He does not
plan to work on a presidential campaign nor would he endorse a candidate.
Rove is the latest of a string of high-profile presidential aides to head for the door as the Bush
administration enters its final stages. In recent months, presidential counselor Dan Bartlett,
budget director Rob Portman, deputy national security advisers J.D. Crouch and Meghan
O'Sullivan, political director Sara M. Taylor, strategic initiatives director Peter H. Wehner and a
string of other longtime aides have resigned one after the other.
None came close to Rove's stature or influence, however. His departure is the end of an era in
modern GOP politics, the conclusion of 14 years that began with advising the son of the last
Republican to hold the White House, then guiding that son first to the Texas governor's mansion
and, ultimately, to the White House. Along the way, Rove became the most prominent political
strategist of his generation and a bete noire for liberals and even a number of conservative critics.
Along with Karen Hughes and Joe Allbaugh, Rove was part of a group known as the"Iron
Triangle" who were central to Bush's early political success in Texas, but he was the most
enduring of the three. Bush termed him "The Architect" for his role in capturing the White House
in 2000 and Rove was similarly credited with midterm Congressional election victories in 2002
and Bush's reelection over Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) in 2004. The ouster of the Republican
Congress in 2006, punctured Rove's long winning streak and empowered his enemies.
Rove's influence extended far beyond the politics of electioneering, deep into policymaking. He
helped craft the first-term Bush agenda of tax cuts, which succeeded, and the second-term
agenda of Social Security private accounts, which did not. More broadly, he provided the
intellectual and historic framework for the Bush presidency and hoped to use it to open a new era
of Republican political dominance, a project that today looks potentially crippled by the
unpopularity of both the president and the Iraq war.
Rove was investigated for his role in leaking the identity of Valerie Plame, a CIA operative whose
husband publicly criticized the administration's handling of prewar intelligence. Although White
House spokesman Scott McClellan initially spoke with Rove and publicly denied that Rove had
anything to do with the leak, the investigation later determined that he had in fact divulged or
confirmed Plame's identity to columnist Robert Novak and Time magazine reporter Matthew
Special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald brought Rove before the grand jury multiple times and
considered charging him in the case but ultimately decided not to. Fitzgerald did indict I. Lewis
"Scooter" Libby, Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, who was convicted of perjury and
obstruction of justice for lying to investigators, although Bush later commuted his sentence.
Libby's attorney asserted at his trial that he was being sacrificed to protect Rove.
Rove told Gigot that he remains confident Bush will recover politically despite his low approval
ratings. "He will move back up in the polls," Rove said. And he said Republicans could still retain
the White House next year. The Democrats are likely to nominate Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton
(N.Y.), "a tough, tenacious, fatally flawed candidate," he said, but Republicans have "a very good
chance" of beating her.
Rove laughed off his own reputation as the svengali of the Bush presidency. "I'm a myth," he
said. "There's the Mark of Rove. I read about some of the things I'm supposed to have done and I
have to try not to laugh."
Computer Glitch Fixed at LAX
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Filed at 8:30 a.m. ET
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- A computer failure that left thousands of travelers trapped on planes and
stuck for hours in the terminal at Los Angeles International Airport was fixed, and flights were
back to normal Monday.
International flights were arriving on time and travelers coming to the U.S. were making it
smoothly through the airport's checkpoints, said U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman
The computer malfunction, which began at 2 p.m. Saturday and lasted nearly 10 hours,
prevented authorities from screening passengers arriving in the U.S. It delayed more than 17,000
people arriving from overseas.
Fleming said a computer switch failed, which knocked down the entire communications system. A
backup system was in place, but it was accessible only to customs officers in some of the lanes
where passengers were being processed, creating huge bottlenecks.
''We've had outages in the past, but they haven't taken nearly as long to resolve,'' Fleming said.
''This was unprecedented in terms of impact.''
During the outage, passengers were kept on planes after the terminals that normally accept
international travelers became full because the previous arrivals couldn't be processed.
Though the entire system was up and running by 11:45 p.m. Saturday, it took officials until
around 4 a.m. Sunday to finish processing the backlog of incoming passengers, Fleming said.
DOW JONES REPRINTS
This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To order presentation-ready
copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients or customers, use the Order Reprints tool
at the bottom of any article or visit:
• See a sample reprint in PDF format.
• Order a reprint of this article now.
Small Jets, More Trips
Worsen Airport Delays
FAA Likes Bigger Craft
But Passengers, Airlines
Prefer Busy Schedules
By SCOTT MCCARTNEY
August 13, 2007; Page A1
At 5 p.m. last Wednesday, planes from all over were lining up in the air to land at New
York's La Guardia Airport. Over the next hour, 41 flights were scheduled to touch down, but
there wasn't room for them all. Thirty-three arrived late, one by three hours.
With runway space this scarce, you might think that
airlines would use big planes that can carry lots of
people. Instead, of those 41 flights, 21 involved
small commuter aircraft. Five of them were propeller
The nation's air-travel system approached gridlock
early this summer, with more than 30% of June
flights late, by an average of 62 minutes. The mess
revved up a perennial debate about whether billions
of dollars should be spent to modernize the air-traffic
control system. But one cause of airport crowding
and flight delays is receiving scant attention. Airlines
increasingly bring passengers into jammed airports
on smaller airplanes. That means using more flights
-- and increasing the congestion at airports and in
the skies around them.
At La Guardia, half of all flights now involve smaller
planes: regional jets and turboprops. It's the same at
Chicago's O'Hare, which is spending billions to
expand runways. At New Jersey's Newark Liberty
and New York's John F. Kennedy, 40% of traffic
involves smaller planes, according to Eclat Consulting in Reston, Va. Aircraft numbers tell
the tale: U.S. airlines grounded a net 385 large planes from 2000 through 2006 -- but they
added 1,029 regional jets -- says data firm Airline Monitor.
As air-travel woes have spread, some aviation officials and regulators, including the head
of the Federal Aviation Administration, have begun saying delays could be eased if airlines
would consolidate some of their numerous flights on larger planes.
Just two problems with that. One is that airlines like having more flights with smaller jets.
The other is that passengers like it, too.
Illustrating the phenomenon, three airlines flying out of midsize Raleigh-Durham, N.C.,
send 21 flights a day into La Guardia. All but one of the flights use small planes.
That's fine with David Sink, a Durham insurance executive. "There are lots of flights, so
time-wise, it worked out well for me," said Mr. Sink recently, taking an American Eagle flight
home. Given a choice between more flights or larger planes, he'd prefer more flights.
The FAA once could tackle congestion by limiting the number of takeoff and landing slots.
But Congress in 2000 voted to phase out slot requirements to open up the airways to
competition from low-fare carriers. The FAA sets a limit on how many takeoff and landings
it can safely handle at each congested airport, but airlines are free to schedule as they
want. If there are too many planes because of overscheduling or just delayed flights
stacking up, the FAA slows down the flow of airliners.
At La Guardia, for example, the FAA allows 75 aircraft movements -- a takeoff or a landing
is one movement -- an hour for commercial airlines in good weather. If high winds or
storms drop that rate lower, the FAA asks airlines to cancel or delay flights. And sometimes
the bottleneck comes not on runways, but in the air when planes from multiple airports are
trying to get a spot on specific routes into or out of the area. Much of the traffic into and out
of New York meshes together onto specific routes in the Washington, D.C., area; when
there are too many planes, it's like multiple lanes of cars squeezing into a two-lane tunnel.
Trying to tackle airport crowding, the FAA last year proposed a complicated plan to force
airlines to increase the average size of the planes they land at La Guardia. FAA
Administrator Marion Blakey, questioning the use of many smaller planes and their more-
numerous flights, says that "from the standpoint of passengers and from the standpoint of
getting the best use out of high-priced real estate, this is not the way we should be going."
But the FAA plan encountered fierce opposition and is in limbo. "A solution eludes us," Ms.
Smaller cities say they need the small planes in order to be connected to the nation's
transportation system. Only with smaller planes can a city the size of, say, Madison, Wis.,
have nonstop service to La Guardia. Travelers, of course, much prefer nonstops, for speed
and reduced hassles.
Airlines like the economics of small planes. For
one thing, they're usually flown by lower-paid
pilots and flight attendants from commuter
subsidiaries or contractors. Smaller jets also
let carriers bulk up their schedules without
flying lots of empty seats. The combination of
smaller jets and more numerous flights makes
airlines' schedules more attractive to high-
dollar business travelers.
Commercial jetliners on the tarmac at Those regional jets -- planes with fewer than
LaGuardia Airport in New York 100 seats -- don't just flit to small towns.
Airlines cram them into their big hubs, too.
Delta Air Lines flies regional jets between Atlanta and both Chicago and New York. United
Air Lines flies regional jets out of O'Hare to six cities -- Atlanta, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Salt
Lake City, Montreal and Charlotte, N.C. -- all in the 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. rush. Three-quarters of
the flights between La Guardia and Toronto are on planes with fewer than 100 seats. The
upshot: 20 flights a day, all competing for a shot at a runway.
The small-plane conundrum is, at least in part, a byproduct of the financial troubles of the
airline industry. After Sept. 11, 2001, airlines grounded older, larger jets that were gas
guzzlers. The big jets weren't needed when traffic dropped dramatically after the terrorist
attacks. Airlines substituted small regional jets, subcontracting the flying.
Now traffic is coming back. But many airlines have deployed most of the widebodies they
have in international flying, which is more lucrative because it faces less price competition.
And because of their financial woes, U.S. airlines haven't been adding many large jetliners.
Since 2002, domestic traffic by mainline airlines has increased 3.6% in terms of revenue-
passenger miles, which is the number of miles that paying customers are flown, Airline
Monitor says. But traffic on airlines' regional partners -- which fly the smaller aircraft -- is up
196%. The average size of jets flown by U.S. airlines, including the widebodies on foreign
routes, is 137 seats, down from 160 a decade ago.
Meanwhile, flight delays have worsened every year since 2003, according to the Bureau of
Transportation Statistics. In the January-June period four years ago, just under 83% of
flights arrived on time; in the comparable period this year, only 72.7% did.
The three big airports in the New York area are the worst for late flights. But unlike in Las
Vegas, what happens there doesn't stay there: New York's delays cascade across the
A late arrival for one flight means a late takeoff for another, which will arrive late in Dallas
or Seattle or Denver. Or, a flight from Orlando, Fla., to Pittsburgh might be delayed
because the Washington-area regional traffic-control facility moves a stream of New York-
bound planes to the west around storms -- clogging the route the Pittsburgh flight would
The problems don't arise just in bad weather. Friday, July 13, saw good weather in most of
the country. But in what's called a ground stop, the FAA barred the takeoff of flights headed
to Newark. Too much volume forced controllers to keep planes waiting on the ground to
take off, sometimes for hours. Continental Airlines says that in 29 of June's 30 days, the
FAA imposed a ground stop or ground-delay program on flights headed to Newark.
In response to Congress's mandate to phase out slot requirements, the FAA has
completely eliminated them at Kennedy. And airlines have poured in more flights. Through
May this year, the number of passengers at JFK is up 14% from a year earlier, but the
number of flights is up 27%, says the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which
operates that airport, La Guardia and Newark Liberty. Flights using smaller planes leapt
85% at JFK in that period, says the Port Authority. FAA officials have reduced, but not yet
fully phased out, slot requirements at La Guardia.
Searching for a new remedy, the FAA last year proposed minimum average sizes for the
planes that fly into and out of La Guardia. Currently, planes using the airport average 98
seats, the agency says. It proposed that airlines' fleets would have to average 105 to 120
seats, depending on how many of their flights went to small communities. The FAA
estimated this plan would reduce delays at La Guardia by 37%.
"Promoting larger aircraft is the only means to increase passenger access to La Guardia,"
said the FAA proposal. But opposition from airlines and smaller communities was so strong
that the plan is basically dead, says the agency's Ms. Blakey.
Foes of the plan included the Port Authority, which considers aircraft size at La Guardia an
airport issue. The Port Authority says it could bring about larger planes simply by writing
aircraft size requirements into gate leases. It says it's studying such an idea.
Former American Airlines boss Robert Crandall says Congress should let the FAA go back
to controlling slots, matching scheduling to capacity. Airport overcrowding is "fixable, but it's
not fixable without major policy change," the former AMR Corp. CEO said at a recent
Another proposal: Change the structure of landing fees. Airports now set them by weight. A
small jet pays a smaller landing fee than a large plane, even though its use of the runway is
the same. Why not charge a flat fee per landing, suggest some economists -- or even
charge the small jets more, to encourage airlines to shift to fewer flights on larger jets?
Yet another idea is to tie landing fees to the level of demand through the day, so they'd
cost more at peak hours. This would encourage airlines to spread out flights and use
bigger planes, says Dorothy Robyn, a consultant at Brattle Group and former aviation
adviser in the Clinton administration. She says the current system "guarantees overuse of
the air-traffic-control system because airlines aren't charged the true cost."
Airlines say tinkering with landing fees, which are only about 2% of total costs, wouldn't
change their behavior, because customers want the convenient service possible when they
use lots of smaller planes. Carriers say less use of small jets would make it harder for them
to offer off-peak flights. "We put [regional jets] into some markets because we don't have
demand at certain times," says David Seymour, vice president of operations control at US
Airways Group Inc. Airlines add that less use of smaller jets also would reduce connection
options for people on long transcontinental or international trips.
With its commuter affiliates using smaller planes, US Airways flies nine trips a day from La
Guardia to also-congested Philadelphia International Airport. There, most passengers
connect to other flights. The arrangement allows US Airways to offer New York customers
more options for long trips.
Carriers contend that without changing rules, the FAA could do a better job of moving
traffic into and out of the Northeast. They note that JFK has four runways, but usually only
two are used at once. The reasons are complicated, and include a limited number of
permissible flight paths, as well as bottlenecks that can result in the Washington area. A
push this year to use three JFK runways at once has had mixed results.
An almost decadelong effort to redesign the designated airways around New York to move
airplanes faster and more efficiently is still bogged down in regulatory review.
Neighborhoods that might face more noise have been trying to derail the plan in Congress.
Surge in Flights
The FAA says it is doing the best it can with old equipment and a surge in flights. The
agency's Ms. Blakey says she thinks airlines will eventually have to switch to larger jets
because of the costs that delays impose on the airlines, in inefficient use of planes and
fuel. Even such a shift wouldn't fix all the delay issues, though, she says: "La Guardia is
always going to be a bottleneck."
With delays climbing, airlines face a tough choice unless the FAA can boost capacity.
Carriers have to accept delays, or else reduce flight frequency. Not wanting to risk losing
passengers to competitors, airlines are showing scant interest so far in consolidating their
numerous small-plane flights into fewer flights with bigger planes.
On Nov. 4, American Airlines will offer new nonstop flights between New York and Flint,
Mich. American will send a morning flight to La Guardia and a flight back to Flint at 6:40
p.m., adding to the competition at La Guardia for precious runway space. The jets
American will use: 37-seaters.
August 12, 2007
FAA investigates plane crash ADVERTISEMENT
PASCAGOULA — The Federal Aviation
Administration is investigating the crash of a
small airplane near Northrop Grumman Ship
Systems in Pascagoula, authorities said.
The married couple in the single-engine plane
were not injured when it went down Saturday.
Gary Frederickson and his wife, Misti
Frederickson, took off from the Ocean
Springs airport Saturday afternoon. As they
approached Pascagoula about 1 p.m. the
plane experienced engine trouble.
Gary Frederickson was forced to land just
north of the shipyard when the engine quit.
The plane touched down in some soft ground,
flipped over and came to rest in a retention pool.
The couple was treated at the scene by Northrop Grumman Ship Systems emergency personnel,
but suffered no injuries, although their plane was likely damaged beyond repair.
Capt. George Tillman of the Pascagoula Police Department said the FAA is investigating.
Article published Aug 13, 2007
LoBiondo presses for money for research
By RAJU CHEBIUM
Gannett News Service
WASHINGTON -- Securing additional federal funds for a proposed aviation research park in
Pomona is the top local priority for Rep. Frank LoBiondo.
LoBiondo, R-2, recently told Gannett News Service that the park, which is in the planning stages
and doesn't yet have an opening date, would help generate high-paying and high-tech jobs
throughout South Jersey.
LoBiondo said getting more funds for the New Jersey Air National Guard's 177th Fighter Wing
and the U.S. Coast Guard station, both located in the 5,000-acre Federal Aviation
Administration's technology campus in Atlantic County, are among his other leading priorities.
Before adjourning for the August congressional recess, the House approved $450,000 for the
proposed research park, which would be on 55 acres the FAA controls.
The Senate has to approve the expenditures and President Bush has to sign off on them before
the money can flow to New Jersey. Bush has criticized lawmakers for including too many pet
projects, calling it pork barrel spending.
LoBiondo, who argues the park is crucial for South Jersey and the future of flight, said it would
allow researchers from Richard Stockton College of New Jersey and the aviation industry to work
together to find ways to reduce flight congestion and expand airport capacity nationwide.
College spokesman Tim Kelly said the park would broaden the local economy and provide
internships for students.
"We hope (it) will be an economic engine for this part of the state. ... The employment base has
been heavily skewed toward hospitality management and tourism," Kelly said.
The 177th Fighter Wing needs new jets to help protect the skies over Washington, and the Coast
Guard requires new engines for helicopters that were part of rescue operations after hurricanes
Katrina and Rita, LoBiondo said.
He also discussed the controversy surrounding the May wildfires that scorched land in the Pine
Two jets attached to the 177th were blamed for the flames, which burned up to 18,000 acres near
the border of Ocean and Burlington counties.
The F-16 jets were practicing maneuvers at Warren Grove when the secondary pilot dropped
flares too close to the ground without the lead pilot's knowledge, despite bone-dry conditions,
according to a military investigation.
Gov. Jon S. Corzine has called for closing the range. The military is expected to release a report
soon recommending ways to prevent future mishaps.
LoBiondo reiterated that closing the range would be bad for national security. Pilots headed for
Iraq and Afghanistan train at Warren Grove.
"That situation was unacceptable. But there's middle ground between saying that's unacceptable
and the only alternative is to close it," he said. "That's what we're pursuing and I hope that's what
the governor pursues."
« Hillary raises Oprah's Obama bash with a Magic party | Main | Another Obama gaffe »
Tommy Thompson drops out of GOP race
Former Gov. Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin, who said he would drop out of the Republican
race for president if he didn't come in first or second in Saturday's Ames Straw Poll, finished sixth
of 11 candidates. And minutes ago he made it official.
The 65-year-old former secretary of Health and Human Services said he was officially dropping
out of the race. "I respect the decision of the voters," he said. Despite visiting all 99 Iowa
counties, his campaign never got much traction, though he did push his colleagues to talk more
about health care.
In a brief statement he said he would take some time off before returning to the private sector and
his nonprofit work. Historically, the role of the Ames straw poll has been as an early spring
weeding of the candidate garden, as discussed here yesterday.
Thompson's departure, which follows that of former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore last month, leaves
the GOP pack at eight. It is unlikely to change the current field's dynamics that await the
anticipated arrival of another Thompson (Fred) in early September. Tommy Thompson gave no
indication of endorsing another Republican yet.
The Times' Michael Finnegan has the complete story on the day after the Ames straw poll here
on the website and in Monday's print editions.
August 9, 2007
A.F.L.-C.I.O. Decides Not to Endorse for Now, Freeing Unions to Do So
By STEVEN GREENHOUSE
CHICAGO, Aug. 8 — The A.F.L.-C.I.O.’s executive council voted on Wednesday against
endorsing any presidential candidate, reflecting divisions over which Democrat to support and
setting the stage for its 55 member unions to make individual endorsements.
Labor leaders said several large unions were leaning strongly toward Senator Hillary Rodham
Clinton of New York and others toward former Senator John Edwards of North Carolina.
The labor federation, which represents 10 million union members, gave the green light to its
member unions to issue endorsements a day after it sponsored a spirited outdoor debate by
seven Democratic candidates before more than 10,000 union members at Soldier Field here.
The A.F.L.-C.I.O. made no endorsements because it could not muster the two-thirds support for a
specific candidate. Labor leaders are highly enthusiastic about the Democratic field.
―We’ve got so many good friends on the Democratic side in this race,‖ said Harold A.
Schaitberger, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters. ―Any one of them would
be far better for workers and working families than the current president.‖
Union leaders say two giant public sector unions, the American Federation of Teachers and the
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, are leaning toward Mrs. Clinton.
But the strong support that those unions’ locals in the Midwest feel toward Senator Barack
Obama of Illinois could prevent their parent unions from backing Mrs. Clinton.
Many industrial unions, most notably the United Steelworkers, are especially enthusiastic about
Mr. Edwards because of his backing of many labor causes and his strong views on limiting
international trade accords. Union leaders say there is a good chance that the Teamsters and
Unite Here, which represents apparel, hotel and restaurant workers, will back Mr. Edwards.
Divided endorsements could put organized labor in the same uncomfortable position it was in
during the 2004 presidential primaries, when unions fought among themselves, dividing their
endorsements among former Gov. Howard Dean of Vermont, Mr. Edwards, Senator John Kerry
of Massachusetts and former Representative Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri.
In March, the A.F.L.-C.I.O.’s executive council asked member unions to hold off endorsing
anyone until after this week’s council meeting in Chicago. But many union presidents pushed to
be freed to make an endorsement after the meeting.
Gerald W. McEntee, chairman of the federation’s political committee and president of the state,
county and municipal employees’ union, said he was eager for his union to make an endorsement
soon to increase its influence in the caucuses and primaries, which begin in January.
―In Iowa, if you don’t have boots on the ground by November, you might as well not be there,‖ Mr.
Karen Ackerman, the A.F.L.-C.I.O.’s political director, said, ―When there is a consensus
candidate, and that might not happen until Feb. 5 or 6, then we’ll come together in a unified
Ms. Ackerman said the federation’s member unions might make an overall endorsement at that
time because a likely Democratic nominee could emerge from all the primaries on Feb. 5.
Labor leaders say they expect organized labor to mount its biggest political effort ever in 2008.
Congress Turns Up the Heat on Executive Bonuses
By Stephen Barr
Monday, August 13, 2007; D01
Bonuses for federal executives are getting a congressional grilling.
Sen. Byron L. Dorgan (D-N.D.) has asked the Government Accountability Office to investigate
possible misuse of the bonus program for federal executives. In fiscal 2006, two-thirds of federal
executives received bonuses, and at five federal agencies, more than 90 percent of the
executives collected bonuses, he pointed out.
In announcing the GAO probe, Dorgan said agencies, rather than rewarding only their high-
performing executives, seemed to believe that all of their executives were above average, "a lot
like Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon." Dorgan said he was concerned by reports that some
executives received bonuses when their agencies had failed to meet certain performance
The heat began turning up on executive bonuses in May, when House members faulted the
Veterans Affairs Department for awarding $3.8 million in performance bonuses in fiscal 2006, with
some executives receiving bonuses of $33,000 each, even though the VA faced a backlog of
disability claims and had stumbled in calculating the cost of care for wounded military personnel
returning from Iraq.
The grill got a little hotter this month, when lawmakers criticized the Food and Drug
Administration for paying $8.3 million in retention bonuses last year. Such bonuses go to
scientists, doctors and other employees at risk of leaving to join the private sector, but the critics
questioned whether FDA senior managers would really quit.
The perception that agencies are handing out overly generous bonuses "is an embarrassment,"
said Paul C. Light, a New York University professor who studies public service. "It is an
embarrassment to see the lack of connection between what agencies do and what individuals
Agency officials disagree and say bonuses go to seasoned federal executives who run complex
operations, such as VA hospitals. Agency leaders, such as Gordon H. Mansfield at the VA and
John R. Dyer at the FDA, have said that bonuses help keep experienced executives in
government and make their compensation more competitive with the private sector.
According to data released by the Office of Personnel Management, an "outstanding" federal
career executive, at the top of a five-level rating system on average received a bonus of $14,290
and a pay raise of $5,644 in fiscal 2006.
For these executives, earning the average salary of $115,429 that year and the average bonus
added 9.3 percent to salary, while the average raise added 3.7 percent, the OPM said.
Government-wide, 67 percent of the Senior Executive Service -- the 6,100 career officials who
hold top management and technical positions -- received bonuses in 2006.
Some agencies also paid bonuses to a larger share of their SES corps. More than 90 percent of
the executives at Defense, Labor, Housing and Urban Development, the General Services
Administration and the OPM received bonuses.
Carol A. Bonosaro, president of the Senior Executives Association, which represents the interests
of federal executives, said she is not surprised that SES members get high marks at their
agencies and receive bonuses. "If you've chosen SES members correctly, and we know that
entry into the SES is not all that easy, then you are likely to get high-performing people who are
doing well," she said.
Four years ago, Congress changed the rules for pay and bonuses in the SES in hopes of creating
a model for introducing a performance-based pay system into the government. In exchange for
the chance to obtain higher pay and bigger bonuses, the SES members gave up a guarantee of
annual pay raises.
This month, Dorgan, joined by Sens. Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii) and George V. Voinovich (R-
Ohio), wrote the GAO saying that they need more information on how the SES system is working,
how bonus decisions are made, and how they are linked to agency goals and performance
standards. The GAO has agreed to undertake the probe, a Dorgan aide said last week.
It's possible that the executive bonuses are not being used as intended and have been turned
into regular salary supplements at some agencies, given congressional curbs on federal pay.
Light said Congress should reexamine the adequacy of federal executive compensation, while
agencies should be cautious in how they use bonuses.
"If you are using the bonus as a back-door pay increase, you are going to get caught sooner or
later," Light said. "And Congress will get involved and start freezing bonuses, and it will get
This is not the first time that federal bonuses have drawn the ire of Congress or public attention,
especially when there are perceptions that an agency is not delivering efficient or effective
"They are probably the lowest-paid executives in their class, so to speak, but somehow when you
work for the government it becomes more obvious how much more you are paid than the average
American," said Bill Coleman, senior vice president for compensation at Salary.com, a research
and software company.
Stephen Barr's e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org.
August 8, 2007
DOW JONES REPRINTS
This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To order presentation-ready
copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients or customers, use the Order Reprints tool
at the bottom of any article or visit:
• See a sample reprint in PDF format.
• Order a reprint of this article now.
Delays Hurt Airlines' Capitol-Hill Connections
Push to Boost Fees
On Corporate Jets
Flags in Congress
By CHRISTOPHER CONKEY
August 8, 2007; Page A6
WASHINGTON -- Canceled flights, lengthy delays and heightened security concerns have
turned air travel into a maddening experience for many fliers. Now, the same problems are
making life difficult for commercial airlines on Capitol Hill.
Some legislators, responding to an increasing volume of complaints from constituents, are
calling for a "passengers' bill of rights" that could change the way carriers manage severe
delays. Others want to prevent regulators from redesigning flight paths, a move desired by
airlines to cut delays at congested Northeastern airports. And for the first time in nearly 30
years, the Department of Transportation is considering new rules that would force airlines
to pay more when they bump passengers from flights.
• The Backlash: The cumulative effect of delays, lost bags and bad service is starting to
hurt airlines on Capitol Hill.
• Possible Measures: Congress is considering a 'passengers' bill of rights,' as well as
new formulas to fund air-traffic control.
• What's Next: Airlines could be put further on the defensive if congestion worsens.
"The problem with airport delays is only getting worse," said Rep. Mike Thompson (D.,
Calif.), who sponsored the passengers' bill of rights in the House. "Fortunately, Congress is
starting to pay attention."
These and other head winds are threatening to interfere with one of the industry's biggest
political battles of recent years: getting corporate jets to shoulder more of the costs of
running and upgrading the nation's air-traffic-control system.
Airlines generally have the backing of the White House and the Federal Aviation
Administration, but Congress is proving a tougher sell. The issue will come to a head next
month, when lawmakers return and the current law funding the FAA expires.
This week, the Transportation Department reported that delays were among the highest
they have been since record keeping began in 1995: Only 68.1% of airline flights were on
time in June, down from 72.8% a year earlier. Complaints about airline service rose nearly
43% that month, compared with 2006, and the rate of mishandled luggage soared. More
aircraft are straining an outdated radar system, and
more passengers are crowding into planes.
"People are angry. They feel like they have no
control," said Kate Hanni, a real-estate broker who
launched Coalition for an Airline Passengers' Bill of
Rights last year after being stuck for hours on a
Ms. Hanni's association hopes to park a mock plane
in front of the Capitol Building next month and invite
lawmakers to spend an hour sitting in it. Among other
measures, Ms. Hanni is pushing to allow passengers
to get off a plane after three hours on the tarmac.
Thus far, the Air Transport Association, the airline
industry's main trade group in Washington, has been
able to bat away some of these proposals. Arguing
that a single standard would make matters worse for
travelers, airlines have developed their own
contingency plans, detailing the kind of nourishment, temperature control and bathroom
access they will provide during delays. These moves have helped to forestall more severe
Meanwhile, the FAA's changes to route designs are inching forward, the agency says. The
Department of Transportation won't decide until late this year, at the earliest, whether to
increase compensation for bumped passengers.
The industry's main lobby group, however, knows that pressure will increase if airport woes
continue. "Anything related to delays gives Congress a reason to want to become more
interested," ATA President James May said last week.
Airlines are hoping to turn the gloomy state of the industry in their favor by arguing that
things will get even worse if Congress fails to steer $20 billion to $25 billion toward
modernizing air-traffic control in the next 20 years. The question is whether taxes and fees
will be overhauled so that commercial airlines pay a lesser share and corporate jets pick up
The air-traffic control system is now funded by user fees and ticket taxes paid by airlines
and their passengers, plus taxes on jet fuel that most aircraft pay. Other revenue comes
from the general fund.
Currently, commercial carriers and their passengers provide over 90% of the taxes that
fund the system, yet they consume closer to 74% of the costs of running it, the FAA
estimates. General aviation, which includes corporate jets and other private aircraft that
don't necessarily use controlled airspace, accounts for 16% of total costs by the FAA's
count, but provides only 3% of the taxes.
While the number of commercial airliners in the air is growing, private jets are growing
faster. In 10 years, the FAA predicts traffic at the nation's busiest airports will be 30% to
40% higher than it is today. The number of hours flown by general aviation pilots is
expected to jump 59% by 2020.
Airlines arguing for a change in how the system is funded have unleashed an advertising
campaign steeped in class warfare. In one animated Internet video funded by the ATA, a
corporate jet cuts in front of several airliners queued on a runway. "Coming through," it
says, "I've got a foursome here with an early tee time!" A star of the ads is Edna, a blonde
who says she loves "big wigs," but "not subsidizing them."
In hearings on Capitol Hill, FAA Administrator Marion Blakey noted that commercial carriers
pay $3,600 in fees and taxes for a flight from New York to Los Angeles, but a corporate jet
traveling the same route contributes only $300.
The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, a group representing private fliers, says
commercial airliners consume much of air-traffic controllers' attention by jamming planes
into overcrowded airports.
The leading Senate bill to fund a new air-traffic-control system would narrow the funding
gap, an approach supported by airlines. But the House Transportation and Infrastructure
Committee's bill so far offers little change in funding formulas, except for a slight increase
in general aviation-fuel taxes.
Rep. James Oberstar (D., Minn.), the chairman of the House Transportation and
Infrastructure panel, says he is happy for private planes to "pay a little bit more" but adds
that "I do not think that airlines should pay less." Mr. Oberstar recently had a flight from
Duluth to Minneapolis canceled because of mechanical problems.
Write to Christopher Conkey at email@example.com
Plane Crashes in Surry County
Aug 11, 2007 02:19 PM EDT
Virginia State Police are investigating the cause of a plane that crashed in Surry County around
11:00 this morning.
Lester Hershey's experimental biplane went down in a cotton field on Mill Swamp Road after
being in flight less than an hour.
Hershey, an FAA licensed commercial pilot with over 40 years experience walked away from the
crash and was transported to the hospital with minor injuries.
WTKR Newschannel 3 will keep you informed of any updates as they become available.
Unions dealt a setback in fight over DoD personnel system
By STEPHEN LOSEY
August 13, 2007
A federal appeals court dealt a blow to labor unions’ efforts to strike down the Pentagon’s plan to
curtail its employees’ rights to collectively bargain and to appeal disciplinary actions.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on Aug. 10 denied a motion by a coalition
of federal labor unions to review a previous court ruling that upholds the Pentagon’s plans.
As a result, 35 federal unions said Aug. 13 that they plan to take the case to the Supreme Court.
In the next step of a two-year court battle to overturn the Pentagon’s new personnel system,
AFGE and 35 other unions representing Defense’s 750,000 civilian employees will ask the
Supreme Court to overturn a May appeals court ruling siding with the Pentagon.
The Pentagon’s new personnel rules, called the National Security Personnel System (NSPS),
would allow the department to assign employees new responsibilities without first bargaining with
their unions, discipline poor performers without offering them time to improve, and pay employees
based on their performance rather than through the General Schedule system of regular step-
and-grade increases. About 110,000 nonunion civilian employees are now covered under NSPS,
and Defense wants to bring 90,000 more on the system in fiscal 2008. The Defense Department
estimates more than 500,000 civilian employees will be eligible for NSPS by the end of fiscal
―The administration and the DoD need to be taken to task on this issue,‖ American Federation of
Government Employees (AFGE) national president John Gage said in an Aug. 13 statement. ―If
NSPS were to be fully implemented, DoD workers would be subjected to an arbitrary, dishonest
and unfair working atmosphere.‖
AFGE and nine other unions sued to overturn NSPS in 2005, arguing that the program illegally
curbs collective bargaining rights. But the Pentagon argues that the ―outdated‖ General Schedule
system must be replaced by NSPS to effectively recruit, retain and reward civilian Defense
The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia sided with the unions in February 2006, when
Judge Emmet Sullivan ruled that NSPS infringes on employees’ collective bargaining rights, fails
to provide an independent third-party review of labor-management disputes and curbs
employees’ rights to a fair process to resolve appeals of adverse management actions.
But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia overturned Sullivan’s ruling in a 2-1
decision in May, and on Aug. 10 the court denied a motion for a full court review filed by AFGE
and the United DoD Workers Coalition.
AFGE said it will file a petition for a writ of certiorari — an appeal asking the Supreme Court to
hear its case — within 90 days.
Email this story to a friend
The Bloomberg Scenario
By Charlie Cook National Journal August 14, 2007
One of the more interesting questions asked in political circles these days is whether there is any
room for an independent presidential candidate, such as New York City Mayor Michael
The most recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll indicates that in a three-way general election
matchup, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., would pull 42 percent of the vote, former New
York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani would get 34 percent, and Bloomberg would attract 11 percent.
The survey, taken July 27-30 by Democrat Peter Hart and Republican Neil Newhouse, two of the
best pollsters in the business, shows Clinton getting 76 percent of the Democratic vote, Giuliani
73 percent of the GOP vote, and Bloomberg 16 percent of the independent vote.
But what is the potential for an independent presidential candidate? When half of 1,005 adults
surveyed were asked, "Would you strongly favor, mildly favor, feel neutral, mildly oppose, or
strongly oppose building a new independent political party to run a credible candidate for
president?" 31 percent said they would strongly favor and 22 percent said mildly favor -- meaning
53 percent seem at least open to the idea. Of the remaining respondents, 16 percent were
neutral, 12 percent were mildly opposed, and 14 percent were strongly opposed.
Interestingly, 58 percent of men said they would favor the idea, contrasted with 50 percent of
women; 57 percent of 18-to-34-year-olds and 60 percent of those ages 35 to 49 supported the
idea as well.
On another question to half the sample, respondents were given four choices: 30 percent said
they would "consider voting for an independent candidate regardless of who the nominees for the
two major parties were," while 22 percent said they would "consider voting for an independent
candidate if I did not like my own party's nominee."
Together, those groups constitute a slight majority of 52 percent. Thirty-four percent indicated
they would consider voting for an independent only if they did not like either major party's
nominee, and 11 percent said they would never consider voting for an independent.
Certain to cause some head-scratching is that while 45 percent of Democrats responded
favorably to the idea of building a new independent party, 55 percent of Republicans did. This
could simply reflect that Republicans are more disillusioned with their party these days. Not too
many years ago, those numbers would likely have been reversed.
To win a majority in the Electoral College, an independent candidate would probably need 37 or
38 percent of the popular vote -- maybe as much as 39 or 40 percent. At that point in a hotly
contested three-way race, candidates would probably start winning a lot of states by narrow
Winning a smaller plurality of the popular vote would simply throw the election into the House,
where each state's delegation would have a single vote. Today, the math indicates that
Democrats would prevail by one vote, but, of course, the number of delegations controlled by
each party could shift in the upcoming election.
Obviously, trying to win the presidency is an even more formidable exercise for an independent
than for a major party nominee. An independent might start with the support of about 11 percent
of the electorate. Combining that with the $1 billion that Bloomberg could pump into his own
campaign, it might not be implausible for his support levels to hit the mid-to-high 20s, perhaps
even attracting the 30 percent or so who seem particularly open to an independent candidacy.
But for Bloomberg to get from, say, 30 percent to the high 30s, the level probably needed to win
the necessary 270 electoral votes, the public would have to be repulsed by both major parties'
nominees because they had been so badly damaged.
That's possible, given that the Swift Boaters were the first of their particular genre but aren't likely
to be the last. A good guess is that there will be "independent" groups on the left and right intent
on carving up the other side's nominee and showing little regard for restraint, good taste, or
fairness. And that's a recipe for creating a disgruntled electorate willing to wish a pox on both
major parties' houses.
From the Los Angeles Times
Double whammy for Republicans
The coming election could be dangerous for the GOP's moderates and mavericks.
August 12, 2007
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. —
Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina is an ardent, unwavering supporter of the
Iraq war. In the House of Representatives during the 1990s, he served as a manager of the
Republican majority's impeachment case against President Clinton.
Yet for Marty Eells, an emergency medical services training officer here, Graham is an
insufficiently reliable conservative. Eells is angered by Graham's criticism of President Bush on
issues like the treatment of detainees in the war on terrorism.
"He's made remarks and comments he doesn't have any business making," Eells said.
Other conservatives in this dependably Republican state are unhappy with Graham for supporting
the failed Senate effort to legalize illegal immigrants and for his role in the 2005 bipartisan
compromise that preserved the right of the Senate minority to filibuster judicial nominees. In the
midst of this unease, several local Republicans -- including the lieutenant governor -- have floated
the possibility of challenging Graham from the right for the GOP Senate nomination next year.
In Connecticut, Republican Rep. Christopher Shays has a different problem. Last year, he
narrowly survived a Democratic tide that left him the sole Republican holding a House seat in all
of New England. Now, at a time when disapproval of Bush and the war appears even more
intense across the Northeast than it was in 2006, Shays has already attracted a well-funded
Democratic opponent (Jim Himes, a former Goldman Sachs vice president) who will face him in
Shays and Graham embody the two forms of dissent from the dominant conservative orthodoxy
in the modern Republican Party. In one category are traditional moderates like Shays, who
pursue a centrist course, especially on social and foreign policy issues, but whose numbers have
relentlessly declined for decades. In the second are maverick figures like Graham or Nebraska
Sen. Chuck Hagel, who are too conservative to be considered moderates but too eclectic and
unpredictable to be considered reliable allies by the right. Both of these groups -- moderates and
mavericks -- are under siege at a moment when Republicans are struggling to reach independent
and swing voters disillusioned by Bush and the war.
In the coming election, moderate and maverick Republicans face mirror-image risks. Because the
maverick conservatives tend to represent more solidly Republican areas (like Graham in South
Carolina or Hagel in Nebraska), they face relatively less danger of losing to Democrats in a
general election next fall. But precisely because they represent conservative regions where
demands for ideological purity are more intense, the mavericks are confronting an elevated risk of
challenges in party primaries.
Hagel, the most outspoken Republican critic of the war, has already drawn a serious primary
opponent (Nebraska Atty. Gen. Jon Bruning) for next year, and Graham and Alaska Sen. Ted
Stevens could face challenges in the primaries too -- which would make 2008 the first time since
1978 that more than one Republican senator has faced such a challenge. More than half a dozen
House Republicans, all of them in Republican-leaning districts, also have attracted primary
Some moderate Republicans, including Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter and former Rhode
Island Sen. Lincoln Chafee, also have confronted arduous primaries from conservative
challengers in recent years, and Maryland's Wayne Gilchrest, a leading House centrist, is facing
one now. But for most of the remaining GOP moderates, primaries are no longer the principal
danger. Instead, because they mostly now represent swing or even Democratic-leaning
constituencies, the moderates face a growing danger in their general election campaigns. In
2006, the Republican Party suffered heavy general election losses in the affluent, white-collar
suburbs where moderates tend to be located and where they once thrived (especially along the
coasts and in the upper Midwest). And "the environment for them in 2008 could be as bad or
worse," said independent election analyst Stuart Rothenberg.
Historically, moderate Republicans offered the most important voice of ideological diversity in the
GOP. But like the American auto companies or the Wednesday night bowling league, moderate
Republicans have been in decline for so long that decline itself has become part of their tradition.
In their heyday, from the mid-1960s through the mid-1980s, formidable Senate Republican
moderates like Jacob Javits of New York, Clifford Case of New Jersey, Edward Brooke of
Massachusetts and Charles McC. Mathias of Maryland often tipped the result on issues relating
to civil rights, the environment, judicial appointments and national security.
Since the 1970s, though, they have steadily lost ground, undermined by the same two forces
evident today. Conservative primary challengers ousted Case in 1978 and Javits in 1980 and
weakened Brooke before he lost a general election in 1978. The larger problem has been the
decline since the 1970s in the number of voters willing to split their ticket between a presidential
candidate of one party and congressional candidates of the other. That has made it more difficult
for each party to elect House and Senate members behind enemy lines -- in the states that
usually prefer the other party in presidential campaigns. The two big losers in that generation-long
sorting-out have been moderate-to-conservative Southern Democrats and moderate-to-liberal
Republicans, primarily from the Northeast.
Taken together, these forces have winnowed the number of Republican moderates, especially in
the Senate. Fewer than half a dozen Republican senators (such as Olympia Snowe and Susan
Collins of Maine) still qualify as moderates. Their numbers are so attenuated that they now exert
influence almost solely when they align with maverick conservatives (such as Graham, Hagel or
Virginia's John Warner), whose numbers now top those of true moderates. But even combined,
the two groups' size in both congressional chambers remains modest. In the House, for instance,
only 20 Republicans (out of more than 230) voted against a majority of their caucus even as
much as 15% of the time during the last Congress.
The upcoming election may further deplete the ranks of both the mavericks and moderates.
Bush's focus on mobilizing the conservative base, while generally helping Republicans in
conservative areas, has alienated independent and moderate voters in the suburban districts
many moderates GOP officeholders represent.
The moderates would benefit if the GOP picks a 2008 presidential nominee who can compete in
Democratic-leaning terrain, but even that would not eliminate the risk of further House and
Senate losses driven by Bush's intense unpopularity in those areas -- like the 24% approval
rating he posted last month in New Hampshire.
Meanwhile, in traditional Republican strongholds -- the red places -- the maverick conservatives
are confronting a party base frustrated and agitated over the party's weakened situation. Each of
this year's primary challenges feeds on different grievances, but they draw on a common sense
among conservatives that the party lost its way during its 12 years in the congressional majority.
To that tinder, opposition to Iraq (in Hagel's case) and support for immigration reform (for both
Hagel and Graham) has introduced a powerful spark.
"When we are now questioning ourselves ... and wondering who we are as Republicans,
everyone who has been up there and part of the process should not sleep well if they've got a
challenge in their own party," said longtime South Carolina GOP strategist Warren Tompkins, a
former advisor to Graham.
Centrist Democrats aren't immune to these trends. Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, for
instance, lost a Democratic primary last year (before winning reelection as an independent). But
for all the fulminating against centrists on liberal websites, the internecine warfare isn't burning as
hot among Democrats.
This difference is rooted in the fact that the Democrats today are much more of a coalition party
than the Republicans: Polls show that only about half of Democratic voters consider themselves
liberals, while three-fourths or more of Republicans call themselves conservatives. That means to
win elections, Democrats depend more than Republicans on the votes of moderates -- which
compels them to accept more dissent from party orthodoxy.
The question for Republicans, as they try to dig out from the collapse of Bush's second term, is
whether they can rebuild a majority coalition without tolerating more dissent and diversity as well.
Ronald Brownstein is The Times' national affairs correspondent.
Alaskan Pilot Accuses FAA Of Vendetta
Tue, 14 Aug '07
Says Infamous Father Keeping His Charter Company Grounded
Craig Schweitzer says he tried to follow the rules in starting a charter airline in
Kenai, AK. He accuses the FAA of having an ulterior motive in keeping that
operation on the ground.
Schweitzer is the son of Leroy Schweitzer. If that name doesn't ring a bell, the
organization the elder man once led probably will: the Montana Freemen, who
held US marshals at bay during a widely-publicized 81-day standoff in 1996.
Craig started Mavrik Aire in Alaska the same year, and says he told his father he
should "play by the rules" when dealing with the government. That was advice Leroy Schweitzer
did not heed... and in the wake of numerous disputes with neighbors and the FAA, his son now
says he's not so sure his father wasn't right to take on the federal government.
"As much as people love America -- and I feel for it too -- I think our government has betrayed
us," Schweitzer told the Anchorage Daily News in a recent interview. "There are men who fought
and died for the freedoms we're supposed to have in this country."
What provoked the Alaskan pilot? Craig Schweitzer maintains FAA inspectors have sought
reasons to shut his business down for years, due solely to his family ties. Last Thursday, the FAA
succeeded in grounding Schweitzer -- as a judge rejected an earlier appeal by the man after the
FAA stripped him of his license.
Schweitzer says the FAA won over a technicality: that he didn't disclose a citation for refusing to
take a breath test on suspicion of drunken driving on an application for an FAA medical. He says
he had disclosed it before.
Those accusations are "malarkey," in the words of the former FAA inspector who built a case
against Schweitzer, and Mavrik Aire, over an assortment of rules violations -- including failing to
schedule flight checks, and illegally upping the gross weight rating on one of the operation's
"Craig wants to operate according to his rules," said Spencer Hill, who retired from the FAA in
March. "You start overloading an aircraft and then it becomes an unstable machine. This has
caused a lot of wrecks."
Aware of Craig Schweitzer's lineage, FAA agents asked state troopers to accompany them when
they served the man with an emergency revocation of his license in July. A spokeswoman for the
state patrol acknowledges the agents feared for their safety... adding Schweitzer was fined $500
for assault, when he allegedly threatened to get a gun and shoot a woman serving him with legal
papers regarding another matter.
For now, Mavrik Aire is still flying -- benefitting from an exemption to charter regs in Alaska, that
allows the airline to fly hunters to camps... as long as Schweitzer is nowhere near the controls.
Schweitzer says that will keep Mavrik Aire in operation for now... but come winter, when his
business once relied on government cargo contracts to stay afloat, the FAA ban will keep his
planes on the ground.
Schweitzer characterizes the incident as an example of the very type of
government oppression his father tried to fight against. The Freemen rejected
federal authority, even setting up its own court system... and placing liens on public officials'
property. Today, Leroy Schweitzer is serving 22 years in jail, on charges including conspiracy,
bank fraud, false claims to the IRS and threats against public officials.
"The government can come in and squash out the little guy -- the same government that my dad
was fighting for 20 years," Schweitzer said. "Way back when my dad was fighting this battle, I
said you should play by the rules. I did that for 15 years and all the sudden they said you can no
longer work here.
"That's the court system that you guys have in this country," Schweitzer added.
Schweitzer has also run into problems with his neighbors at a North Kenai air park. Schweitzer
runs Mavrik Aire from his home there, and has sued neighbors on allegations the homeowners
association conspired to limit his access to a floatplane basin.
"What Craig Schweitzer has done is he tries to bully and intimidate people and rides his father's
coattails, and says, 'If you don't follow my way of thinking I'm going to sue you,'" said neighbor Bill
Former FAA inspector Hill says he tried "to work with Craig to keep him out of trouble, but every
time I turned around there was another problem."
Evergreen International Airlines Receives FAA Cert To Fly Dreamlifter, 747-400s
Mon, 13 Aug '07
Oregon-Based Company Will Operate, Maintain 747-400LCFs
Evergreen International Airlines (EIA) -- subsidiary of Evergreen International Aviation -- tells
ANN the company received its FAA New Aircraft Process Document (NAPD) August 9. The
modification of the Airlines' operational specifications allows EIA to acquire full operational control
of the Dreamlifter -- a modified Boeing 747 Large Cargo Freighter -- as well as other 747-400
The documentation process included a review and revision of EIA’s manuals, operation systems,
maintenance programs and airline administration to meet the FAA’s 747-400 standards. It also
included the completion of Route Proving flights, operating under the revised procedures with
"This is an exciting time for Evergreen," stated Brian Bauer, EIA President. "With certification
completion, the full implementation of the Dreamlifter program and addition of the 747-400BCFs,
we have a solid platform for the future."
Evergreen also told ANN of a new order and scheduled delivery of three B747-400BCFs, with first
delivery in early summer 2009. The aircraft will be an upgrade for EIA's current commercial
operations. The BCF is a 747-400 aircraft modified by Boeing into a full cargo aircraft.
The 747-400 certification and acquisitions should provide EIA with many new opportunities.
Technological advances and other factors make the 747-400s a much more economical aircraft
to operate and maintain.
Evergreen says it will continue upgrading the operations of the Airline by beginning the
certification process for the FAA’s Air Transportation Oversight System (ATOS). The NAPD
process Evergreen on the path to gaining this additional certification.
As ANN reported, Evergreen International Aviation was selected in December 2005 to operate
and maintain the Boeing Dreamlifter. The specially modified plane is used to transport major
components of the upcoming Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Evergreen has been selected as the Prime
Contractor to operate, maintain and support these aircraft. Contract life is 20-25 years -- the
projected life of the 787 program).
August 13, 2007
The Rove Legacy
By ADAM NAGOURNEY
Karl Rove leaves the White House in anything but victory. His legendary reputation was seriously
diminished by the Republican defeat in the 2006 midterm elections, and has been eroded almost
every day since then, as President Bush has struggled through his second term.
There probably was no better sign of how far this White House has fallen than at the Iowa Straw
Poll in Ames this weekend, a gathering of probably the most committed Republicans in the
country. This was where Mr. Rove displayed his political skills to the country in 1999, steering Mr.
Bush to a victory in a nonbinding poll that nonetheless cemented his position as his party’s
Mr. Bush’s name was barely mentioned in Ames on Saturday, much less Mr. Rove’s. The winner
of the contest, Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, offered a pretty grim verdict on the last seven
years in Washington when he said, ―If there has ever been a time that we needed to see change
in Washington, it is now.‖
Gone are the days when Republican candidates were expected to fight to become the heir to
either the Bush legacy or Mr. Rove himself.
Yet even as Mr. Rove fades from the scene — a process that, in truth, had begun well before he
announced his resignation in an interview published today in The Wall Street Journal — his
influence over the 2008 Republican presidential campaigns is already quite apparent. His is a
legacy that will, for better or for worse, be one of the factors that determine whether Republicans
keep the White House in 2008.
Look at the campaign-staff roster of any of the major Republican presidential candidates — Mr.
Romney, Rudolph W. Giuliani, John McCain — and it is hard not to find people who have worked
with or under Mr. Rove and Ken Mehlman, the former Republican National Committee chairman.
If Mr. Rove is to some extent discredited in Republican circles, blamed for political mistakes that
have contributed to the staggering decline of Mr. Bush’s standing with the American public, that
has not stopped the people who have worked around him from embracing many of his tactics.
Mr. Romney’s decision to compete in the nonbinding straw poll in Iowa over the weekend was
taken right from the pages of Mr. Bush’s 2000 campaign strategy, and Mr. Romney’s aides
pointed to Mr. Bush’s 1999 showing as they claimed success here.
Mr. McCain’s entire campaign strategy, initially at least, seemed to clone the Bush campaigns of
2000 and 2004. That began with recreating the conservative political coalition that Mr. Rove put
together for Mr. Bush, and continued with the fundraising network. (Needless to say, that did not
prove to be the smartest strategic decision of the cycle.)
Mr. Giuliani’s campaign of 2008 is built, like Mr. Bush’s was in 2004, almost entirely on the idea of
attacking Democrats as unable to protect the nation from a terrorist attack.
Over at the Republican National Committee, party officials, at Mr. Rove’s direction, had been
working to prepare the 72-hour-plan voter turnout operation — the sophisticated system of
identifying friendly voters and coaxing them to the polls — that Mr. Rove and Mr. Mehlman
championed in 2000 and 2004, and that arguably accounted for Mr. Bush’s 2004 victory in Ohio.
That system will be turned over in this campaign cycle to the party’s nominee, as soon as he is
Similarly, Mr. Rove and the party have been studying the Democratic candidates and trying to
identify their biggest vulnerabilities, in preparation for the kind of concerted early attack that Mr.
Rove directed against John Kerry, the Democratic presidential candidate, in 2004.
To that end, Mr. Rove’s description of Hillary Rodham Clinton as ―fatally flawed‖ in his interview
with the Journal did not seem like idle chatter.
Mr. Rove said he would not join any of the presidential campaigns. In some ways, though, it’s
hard to imagine him staying aloof if his services are requested. This election may be Mr. Rove’s
last chance to salvage a reputation that was damaged in 2006. He surely recognizes that being
identified with a successful effort to win back Congress and to defeat a ―fatally flawed‖ candidate
could restore at least some of the luster to a man who was so long described in Washington as a
Truth be told, though, as of today he probably would not be very welcome in many of the
campaigns. Even some of his former lieutenants are apt, in private moments, to speak of Mr.
Rove in tones of disappointment, disillusionment and no small amount of anger.
Many remember Mr. Rove’s lofty ambitions — his talk of overseeing a political realignment that
would marginalize Democrats for a generation — and think he aimed too high. Many wonder if a
strategy aimed entirely at methodically identifying and stoking the party’s conservative base, with
issues like gay marriage, abortion and terrorism, was ever a recipe for long-term political
dominance, much less for governing a country.
US FAA calls meeting with industry to discuss runway safety
By John Croft
US FAA administrator Marion Blakey and 40 representatives from the aviation industry are to
meet on 15 August to discuss solutions to the runway incursion problem at US airports, ATI,
flightglobal.com's sister news source, has learned.
The meeting, at the headquarters of the Aerospace Industry Association in Arlington, Virginia, will
consider solutions to the runway problems in the short-, medium- and longer-term of up to two
Airframer Boeing and avionics manufacturers Rockwell Collins and Honeywell have been invited
to attend the closely held meeting.
The FAA meeting comes almost six months after the agency approved guidance for developing
situational awareness aids based on relatively low-cost electronic flight bags in the cockpit,
though no manufacturers have yet been contracted to build such a unit.
The US National Transportation Safety Board, as part of a runway incursion symposium, held in
March, emphasised that an incursion disaster is imminent if new technologies, including in-
cockpit displays that show an aircraft’s position on an electronic map of the airport, are not rapidly
By Brian Friel firstname.lastname@example.org August 15, 2007
On June 28, a bill promoted by President Bush and a bipartisan group of senators to deal with the
nation's immigration problems died in the Senate. As they performed an autopsy on the
legislation later that day, two senators from different parties who often vote against each other but
who worked together for this bill suggested the same terminal illness was to blame: low trust in
"A lot of Americans have lost faith in their government," Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., told reporters.
"They don't think that we can control our borders, that we can win the war, that we can issue
passports, that we can solve other problems."
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., offered a similar diagnosis, split in two rationales. "The first one
is, people didn't believe what was in the bill could fix our broken borders," she told reporters. "And
I think the second one was, people look out and they see the failures of government, whether it's
Katrina or the inability to get enough passports out for people, and they say, 'How are they going
to accomplish all of this?' "
Government's credibility problem not only makes it tough for senators to get legislation through, it
makes life harder for federal managers. As trust wanes, it becomes harder to change the way
government does business. And the harder it is to change business practices, the more likely it is
that government will fail.
Failure, of course, erodes trust. The cycle of self-fulfilling low expectations in this age of
unpredictability could lead to a variety of outcomes: downsizing, contracting out, program
elimination, congressional micromanagement or frequent leadership changes are among the
Four decades ago, the picture was quite different, with three-quarters of Americans in 1964
saying they trusted the government to do the right thing most of the time. That number steadily
declined, bottoming out in 1994 at 21 percent. In that year, Republicans ousted Democrats from
control of both chambers of Congress for the first time in 40 years. Subsequently, the GOP
Congress and Democratic President Clinton ended up temporarily shutting down the government
as a whole, closing some offices, downsizing the federal workforce and increasing the contracting
out of government functions.
Public trust in government does not have a one-to-one correlation with performance, because
outside factors such as faith in political leaders, the strength of the economy and perceived
threats to the nation all have influence. Nonetheless, in the 1990s, public perception of
government performance improved, as did public trust in government. It climbed from its 1994 low
to 55 percent in October 2001. The Sept. 11 attacks the month before had a galvanizing effect on
the American public, but the trust number rose throughout the years preceding them.
Six years later, however, trust in government is almost back down to its 1994 bottom. A July New
York Times/CBS News poll found that trust has fallen to 24 percent this year. Since 1994, the
environment that federal managers face has become more complex, making it hard to know what
will happen as a result. The global economy is more interconnected, technology has transformed
the workplace, the nation's demographic profile has steadily changed and political competition
has reached breakneck pace.
The coming years promise greater challenges for government managers. The falloff in trust can
only magnify the problems.
GSA Expands Bonus Program, but Payouts May Shrink
By Stephen Barr
Wednesday, August 15, 2007; D04
More bonuses are in the works at the General Services Administration.
Lurita A. Doan, the head of the GSA, has expanded the number of employees eligible for
performance awards, saying that a previous policy "excluded many employees who are vital to
GSA's business success."
Under the old policy, employees who received the top two ratings in the agency's performance-
recognition system -- a 4 or 5 on a five-level scale -- were eligible for bonuses. Doan, in a memo
to the GSA staff Aug. 7, said she had decided employees given a Level 3 rating also should be
The new policy is to be implemented by the end of the current rating period, Sept. 30, Doan said.
She noted in her memo that implementing the change would hinge on GSA offices updating their
employee-evaluation procedures and the outcome of agency discussions with unions on the new
Doan has been under fire from Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House
Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which is examining allegations that she violated
the Hatch Act by asking GSA political appointees how they could "help our candidates" during a
briefing this year at the agency by a White House official.
A report on Doan prepared by the federal Office of Special Counsel quoted her as telling
investigators that some witnesses in the probe were poor performers "and they will not be getting
bonuses or special awards or anything of that nature."
Waxman admonished Doan for the comments and said his committee would hold officials
accountable if they threaten employees "who tell the truth to the Congress."
Despite the dispute, the GSA is rated as one of the best places to work in the federal
government, according to an index created by the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service and
The GSA, popularly known as the government's landlord, has about 12,000 employees who help
agencies buy supplies and services, including technology, and provides options for leasing office
space, cars and consultants.
The 2007 rankings showed that GSA employees gave fairly high marks to the agency in areas
such as teamwork and training but were less pleased with the bonus and promotion systems for
Gail Lovelace, the GSA chief personnel officer, said that the agency regularly reassesses its
workforce programs and that it decided it was time to modify the bonus-eligibility policy. She
predicted that employees "will be thrilled for the most part" by Doan's decision.
Lovelace said, however, that the agency's budget for bonuses would not grow, raising the
possibility that bonuses may be smaller. Officials are studying how to manage the transition and
ensure that employees are treated fairly.
"We have to make sure we are implementing in a way that continues to motivate them to high
performance," she said.
In the 2006 ratings, 13 percent of GSA employees received bonuses for extraordinary job
performance; 45 percent earned bonuses for exceeding the goals in their job performance plans,
and 36 percent were rated at Level 3, for getting their job done or doing their job well, Lovelace
The remainder of the employees, 6 percent, were deemed to be having problems in their jobs, to
be failing at work, or were not rated because they were recently hired. Employees who are
struggling to meet expectations at the GSA are put on performance-improvement plans.
Under the previous policy, employees with the top rating, Level 5, were eligible for a bonus of up
to 6 percent of their base pay, and those rated at Level 4 could receive up to 4 percent of salary
as a bonus.
Labor Troubles at Labor Board
There are labor woes at the National Labor Relations Board, and some unionized employees are
calling for the resignation of the board's general counsel, Ronald Meisburg.
Members of the National Labor Relations Board Union, which plans to picket at the board's
headquarters today, contend that Meisburg is defying a federal ruling that allowed the union to
consolidate four bargaining units into one.
Eric Brooks, the union president, said Meisburg is engaging in the same kind of conduct that he is
supposed to stop when it is done in the private sector. "The agency is violating the law," Brooks
Meisburg has declined to bargain with the union over the consolidation because he thinks it would
undercut the law that established the NLRB, according to an agency statement. The law set up
the position of general counsel as an independent prosecutor, separate from the board, which
acts more like a court.
But the Federal Labor Relations Authority, which oversees labor-management practices in the
government, rejected Meisburg's arguments. FLRA officials found that bargaining for the board
and the general counsel headquarters units has been conducted jointly for about 30 years and
that the board and general counsel operate by consensus so that the NLRB has "a unified
agency policy applicable to all employees."
The union has filed an unfair labor practice complaint against the NLRB, and the matter is under
investigation by the Federal Labor Relations Authority. It's possible the dispute could end up in
federal court, Brooks said.
From the Los Angeles Times
Karl Rove: great tactics, bad strategy
His goal to polarize politics worked against him when events shifted.
August 15, 2007
It was fitting that White House political guru Karl Rove announced his resignation this week in an
interview on the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, the premier bulletin board for the
conservative movement. Speaking to conservatives has been the centerpiece of Rove's
distinctive political vision. That was its great strength -- and its fatal weakness.
Under Rove and President Bush, Republican policy and legislative and electoral strategies
intertwined. Bush aimed to pass his legislative agenda by unifying congressional Republicans
rather than dividing Democrats. He sought to win elections more by increasing Republican
turnout than by attracting independent and swing voters. His policy agenda -- with the notable
exceptions of education and immigration -- promoted the other two goals by almost unwaveringly
advancing conservative priorities that enthused Republicans and antagonized Democrats.
Each of these approaches reflected Rove's conviction that the heightened ideological conflict
between the parties since the 1960s, particularly about social issues, had left very few genuine
swing voters. In that environment, he believed, a president had little chance to attract support
from voters or lawmakers outside his core coalition. Thus the key to a president's success was
uniting and energizing his own party -- even if that meant igniting passionate opposition from the
other. Rather than seeking to reverse the polarization in American politics, Bush and Rove sought
to channel it to their advantage.
Rove didn't construct this strategy alone. His focus on maximizing the contrast between the
parties built on the thinking of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (like Rove, an autodidact
who marinated himself in political history). And like Gingrich, Rove was too much the visionary to
ignore opportunities for reaching new constituencies. "You are kidding yourself if you don't think
there is constant reaching out," Rove told me in an interview last year.
But with Rove's leadership, the White House undertook a very specific kind of political outreach.
Rather than seeking to realign the overall electorate with a message and agenda that appealed
broadly across party lines, Rove targeted appeals at niche groups, such as the religiously devout
African Americans who were courted with grants from the White House initiative to fund faith-
based social services. Rove took it as a given that Bush could never convert the broad mass of
voters skeptical of him, and he increasingly portrayed the intense opposition the president
provoked as a badge of honor -- proof that Bush was making tough decisions.
For a time, this strategy produced reliable dividends. During Bush's first term, congressional
Republicans voted together at rates not seen in a century, allowing the White House to smoothly
pass its agenda despite narrow GOP majorities in both chambers. Bush's steadfast support from
the Republican base, combined with the breakthrough voter-contact tactics Rove helped design,
produced a massive GOP turnout that not only powered the president's reelection but carried his
party to congressional gains in 2002 and 2004.
But Bush's second term has relentlessly revealed the limits of Rove's approach. Bush's margin of
victory in 2004, measured as a share of the popular vote, was the smallest ever for a reelected
president. And because nearly half the country opposed him even at his high point, Bush's
approval rating plummeted to dangerous depths when events turned against him, as they did
through 2005 in Iraq and at home, with Hurricane Katrina and the public rejection of his Social
Security restructuring plan.
The collapse of Bush's public standing diminished his ability to move his ideas through Congress
even while Republicans still held the majority. His refusal to include even sympathetic Democrats
in decision-making on Iraq left him dangerously alone as conditions there deteriorated. The
downward spiral culminated in last year's election in which Republicans lost the House and
Senate, mostly because independents -- the swing voters Rove believed were largely extinct --
broke overwhelmingly against the GOP. "He had a very self-conscious strategy of polarizing the
country," said Stanley Greenberg, the Democratic operative who most matches Rove's sweep of
vision, "and it polarized the country against them."
Rove aspired not only to shape a single presidency but to design an enduring Republican
majority. It's too early to know whether last year's Republican losses rendered a final verdict on
that project, but the GOP now holds fewer House and Senate seats and governorships than
before Bush took office, and Democrats have widened their lead in partisan identification among
voters. Independents remain disillusioned with Bush, threatening the GOP in 2008.
After Bush's disastrous second term, it's difficult to imagine that another president will try to
govern with so much resistance to compromise and so little concern for opinions outside his
coalition. Rove often maneuvered with great skill (and better humor than he's credited with), but
he leaves Washington as a brilliant tactician in the service of a fundamentally flawed strategy.
Hastert Rules Out Another Run
Announcement Is to Be Made Friday, House GOP Aides Say
By Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 15, 2007; A05
Rep. J. Dennis Hastert (Ill.), who last year became the longest-serving Republican speaker of the
House, will announce Friday that he will not seek reelection, Republican House aides said
GOP aides say that Hastert is likely to serve out the rest of his term, but that he has been
considering resigning from the House this year. If he did, Hastert would trigger a special election
that could give an indication of whether Democrats are continuing their political surge or whether
Republicans have stanched the bleeding in GOP-leaning districts.
Hastert's departure has been expected since a Democratic wave in November washed him from
the speaker's chair, which he had occupied since December 1998. Just days after the elections,
Hastert resigned from the House GOP leadership and has served quietly as the congressman
from the far suburbs of Chicago.
Hastert, a former high school wrestling coach, has remained a popular figure among House
Republicans. During his eight-year speakership, he was often said to be the glue that held the
fractious GOP majority together. While then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) resorted
to threats and intimidation to keep the troops in line, Hastert used his personal appeal. GOP
members simply did not want to disappoint him.
"If Denny ever decided to leave, his Capitol Hill presence would be greatly missed," said Ron
Bonjean, a former senior aide to Hastert.
The former speaker's reputation was damaged late last year, however, when a House ethics
committee report detailed how his senior staff appeared to hide allegations that then-Rep. Mark
Foley (R-Fla.) had made inappropriate advances toward male House pages. Senior House
leaders, such as Rep. John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), told the ethics panel that they had alerted
Hastert about the allegations against Foley months before they became public.
In addition to his handling of the Foley scandal, Hastert has been dogged by ethics questions
regarding highway funding bill earmarks affecting land close to property that he owns.
Like other exurban districts, Hastert's once-solidly Republican district of suburban and rural
voters has drifted toward the Democratic Party. Hastert won reelection in November with a
comfortable 60 percent of the vote, but that was down from 69 percent in 2004 and 74 percent in
Two Republican candidates for Hastert's seat have already emerged -- state Sen. Chris Lauzen
and Jim Oberweis, a well-funded investment adviser and dairy farmer who has run for office
But a special election could give the GOP trouble, said Stuart Rothenberg, editor of the
nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report. President Bush took 55 percent of the vote in 2004 in
Hastert's district, a majority that was small enough for some Democratic candidates to win in
other districts in 2006. A special election would hinge on turnout; and for the moment,
Republicans are demoralized by an unpopular president and an unpopular war, while Democrats
are energized for the same reasons.
Democratic businessman Bill Foster has already jumped into the race, pledging to commit $2
million of his own money. Foster raised $131,000 in April, May and June; and with $107,000 of
that still in the bank, he has already established himself as financially competitive with Hastert.
"In the current environment, the Democrats are going to take a look at any district like this,
particularly if it's an open seat," said Nathan L. Gonzales, political editor of the Rothenberg
More troubling for Republicans, Hastert's decision could be the leading edge of a wave of GOP
retirements that would tax the party's already-strapped resources even more. Rep. Ray LaHood
(R-Ill.), from nearby Peoria, announced his retirement just weeks ago.
Washingtonpost.com staff writer Paul Kane contributed to this report.
News | San Diego
SHORT TAKES: REGIONAL EDITION
Gamblers, FAA workers warned of exposure to TB
August 15, 2007
Patrons of the Sycuan Casino who traveled in the casino's bingo bus in the South Bay on
weekends, as well as employees at San Diego's federal Air Traffic Control station, may have
been exposed to two people now diagnosed with active tuberculosis, county officials said
In the Sycuan Casino situation, patrons who rode the evening Sycuan Bingo 1 Bus for at least
eight hours on Saturdays or Sundays between April 15 and July 29 should consult their
physicians. The bus stopped at Beyer Way and Palm Avenue, Saturn Boulevard and Palm
Avenue and Morgan Towers/Kimball Park at D Avenue and 15th Street in the South Bay.
The patient these patrons may have encountered has a strain of TB resistant to common TB
drugs, although the strain is vulnerable to other drugs, county health officials said.
In the FAA situation, an employee who worked at the San Diego TRACON air traffic control
station between April 1 and Aug. 9 also may have exposed co-workers. The infected employee
was a contract employee in the building.
Individuals with no medical provider or who would like more information on TB should call the
county at (619) 692-8621.
Symptoms of TB include persistent cough, fever, night sweats and unexplained weight loss. Most
people exposed to TB do not develop the disease.
Last year, there were 315 patients diagnosed with TB in San Diego County. So far this year, there
were 126 cases of TB reported as of Aug. 6. –C.C.
Comair sues U.S. government
Blue Grass Airport also named in suit
Ads by Google
Hand Built and Custom Painted Sets In Stock -
Bubblicious U.B.B.L.™ Commissioner. Chance
to Meet LeBron - Join Now!
Jermaine O'Neal Workout
Basketball Training and Workout of NBA Star
• Pilot error not the whole story
LEXINGTON, Ky. - Comair has named the federal government, Blue Grass Airport and an airport
administrator in federal lawsuits that families of victims of a crash a year ago filed against the
Comair spokeswoman Kate Marx said the filings Monday against the federal government and
airport "are another step in the legal process to ensure that all parties we feel share responsibility
for the accident are held accountable."
Flight 5191 crashed shortly after taking off from the wrong runway last Aug. 27, killing 49 of the
50 people on board.
At least 39 families have sued Comair, Marx said. Several of the suits have been settled.
John Coon, the airport's director of operations, is named as a defendant in the third-party claims.
Coon, who helped oversee a major runway construction project weeks before the crash, is the
first employee to be named as a defendant in the lawsuit, though Comair has previously sued
unidentified airport employees.
Other unnamed employees for the Federal Aviation Administration and the airport are also listed
Blue Grass Airport officials said Monday that they could not comment because they had not
reviewed the claims. An FAA spokeswoman also declined to comment.
A Fayette County judge earlier this month ruled that the airport board is entitled to sovereign
immunity. The airline said in a legal filing that it objects to the ruling and wants to preserve its
rights in federal and state courts.
Comair attorneys have said the wrongful-death lawsuits in Fayette Circuit Court will be moved to
U.S. District Court in Lexington.
Comair's filings repeat claims it has made earlier. It claims the FAA was negligent because it
understaffed the airport control tower, overworked the controller on duty and did not provide
adequate information about the construction project, which involved a repaving of the primary
runway and relocation of taxiways.
Comair has previously sued the FAA in federal court but withdrew its claims because it had not
completed an administrative process required before it can sue the FAA.
The airline has said the airport shares blame in the crash because of poor runway markings, bad
signage, lighting problems and other issues related to the runway repaving project. The National
Transportation Safety Board recently ruled that the crash was caused because of mistakes by the
two Comair pilots.
Congress must act quickly on FAA modernization proposal
This hasn't been a good year for the nation's airlines.
Although there have been some rare reports of profits in the industry, the airlines had their worst
on-time performance in June since the Federal Aviation Administration began keeping track of
late flights 13 years ago.
If they want to convince travelers to look for alternative ways to get to their destinations, that's the
way to do it.
Some of the reasons for the delays are outside of the airlines' control. Weather plays a major
role, for instance.
Other problems can be laid at the airlines' doorsteps, however.
Those that are able to make a profit are doing so because they have tightened schedules, hired
fewer employees and cut the size of their airplanes.
That means there's no give in the system, so the delays cascade throughout the day and
sometimes into following days.
A crew delayed on a flight through Denver on one afternoon may arrive in Reno late that night,
pushing back the time it can begin working the next morning by several hours, holding up
passengers with no alternative seats available to get them where they're going.
The result: frustration, anger and eventually the decision to take the car next time, or stay home.
The overarching problem for the industry, however, is an air-traffic-control system that is quite
efficient but also quite outdated.
Many of the major troubles that delay flights would be just minor hassles with a better system for
moving flights quickly to their destinations — routing planes around storms instead of holding
them up until the storm passes, as an example.
That more efficient system — replacing radar control with a sophisticated satellite-based system
— is on the way ... if Congress gets around to approving the FAA's request for funding. (The
FAA's current program authority and aviation excise taxes expire on Sept. 30.)
There doesn't seem to be any opposition to the plan to update the system. No one doubts that it's
The difficulty, not surprisingly, is determining who's going to pay for it.
The FAA's proposal has pitted the airlines against general aviation, putting Congress between the
rock and the hard place of Washington lobbying organizations.
The plan has run into opposition because it seeks to increase the contribution to the cost of the
air-traffic-control system of business and general aviation while cutting the percentage of the total
cost to operate the system paid by airline passengers.
The FAA says that under its proposed fee structure all users would pay "their fair share of the
aviation system's costs through their preferred payment mechanism."
The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association disagrees and is adamantly opposed to any proposal
that would create increase costs for its members or allow the FAA to charge user fees for its
That shouldn't be an insurmountable problem for Congress. The need to upgrade the system
soon makes its resolution critical.
Meanwhile the FAA budget languishes and travelers wonder whether they'll get to their
destinations on time.
If this summer's statistics are any indication, the odds are that they very well might not.
— Reno Gazette-Journal