Your FAA At Work...

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Building New Edifices, Filling Old Slots...

The folks at the FAA were busy last week, creating a new safety office, filling a long-vacant executive post, and hosting the annual forecast conference. The common theme: Change is coming swift and sure, and the feds are racing to keep up with it. Secretary of Transportation Norm Mineta announced Thursday that the Department of Transportation will create a new Air Traffic Safety Oversight Service, an independent "second set of eyes" to ensure that changes in air traffic standards and procedures are safe. Also, more than a year after creating the post, the FAA has finally named its first chief financial officer, Ramesh Punwani. "We needed someone who could balance a $14 billion checkbook, and we found him," said FAA Administrator Marion Blakey. As CFO, Punwani will oversee the FAA's $14 billion budget and develop agency-wide financial systems. "Ramesh knows budgets and he knows aviation. It's just the right mix for the FAA." Punwani's background includes executive positions at Pan American World Airways, Tower Air and Trans World Airlines. He also was CFO of Travelocity.com. The position had been filled for the last 13 months on an interim basis by John Hennigan.

The Air Traffic Safety Oversight Service, which will be part of the FAA, will oversee the Air Traffic Organization, which was established three years ago to run the National Airspace System. "This is a new way of doing business," said FAA Administrator Marion Blakey. "This new organization is designed to give us independent analysis of our air traffic control operations. It will operate as a second set of eyes to bring us to a new level of excellence." Mineta named Dave Canoles, the FAA's director for emergency operations and communications, to head the new office. The establishment of the Oversight Service follows recommendations by the National Civil Aviation Review Commission in 1997 and the International Civil Aviation Organization in 2001 that safety oversight of the FAA's air traffic function should be provided by a separate part of the agency. Canada, the U.K. and Germany are among the ICAO states transitioning to similar systems.