J. Lynn Helms, Former FAA Administrator, Dies

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J. Lynn Helms, who served as FAA administrator from 1981 to 1984, died on Dec. 11, at his home in Westport, Conn., at age 86. Helms may be best remembered for his role during the 1981 strike by air traffic controllers. According to the Washington Post, Helms advised Reagan administration officials that air traffic safety would not be affected if more than 11,000 union controllers were fired. Helms kept ATC running with non-union workers, managers, members of the military, and new hires. Helms also served as a test pilot in the Navy, and was president of Piper Aircraft in the 1970s.

Helms was the first man to fly 1,000 mph, in a Navy F8U Crusader, in 1955. He had retired from a long career in the military and the private sector when Transportation Secretary Drew Lewis asked him to take on the FAA job. During his tenure, Helms helped initiate a $10 billion plan for modernizing the National Airspace System and helped to install new weather technology in response to several fatal airline accidents.