Everyone has a soapbox someday. In London’s Hyde Park, they even set aside a corner (Speakers’ Corner, appropriately) for advocates of almost any cause, from the antivivisectionists to the antidisestablishmentarians. Here in Washington, people with causes are allowed to speak for however long they wish if they’re Members of Congress, and others sometimes are also given a soapbox from which to pour out their beliefs. Left Field was fortunate the other day to be given a soapbox by the International Aviation Club of Washington. The venue was a so-called media forum where journalists were expected to hold forth on the issues of the day, but as usual, the experts on the podium ended up learning from the real experts in the audience. The topic de jour was mergers and consolidation, and even the experts didn’t know what the next day's headlines would be. But as the group went through the various rumoured combinations (should Southwest buy United, etc), a thought suggested itself, and we’re going to repeat it here: is this an opportune time for something more ambitious than a domestic merger that may or may not take capacity out of the system, that may or may not produce strong revenue bump-ups, and that may or may not please customers?
Washington Ways: February 2008 Archives
Washington never runs smoothly and election years are worse. Take what should have been a simple straightforward procedure, getting a new FAA administrator in place. But Robert “Bobby” Sturgell, who’s been acting FAA administrator since Marion Blakey ended her term last September, may not get the job to keep. After two hours of generally hostile questioning by senators, two members of the self-proclaimed "world’s greatest deliberative body" announced they would block his nomination from coming to the Senate floor for a vote.
Sturgell (right) needs a Senate vote if he’s to get the job for a full five-year term set by law. But after the back and forth on air-traffic controller staffing, attrition and morale in a Senate commerce committee session that was far more contentious than the usual confirmation hearing, that’s not a sure thing, even for someone as deeply experienced as Sturgell, a former NTSB staffer, former United Airlines pilot and former Top Gun navy pilot. One senator, New Jersey’s Frank Lautenberg (left), announced at the start of the hearing that he was opposed to the Sturgell nomination. “He’s the wrong man at the wrong time,” said the Democrat. Within minutes of the close of the hearing, Lautenberg and his fellow New Jersey Democrat, Robert Menendez, announced that they had placed a ‘hold’ on a final vote on Sturgell’s confirmation. That puts Sturgell's FAA future in limboland.