On Monday morning, FAA Administrator Marion Blakey announced that FAA Chief Operating Officer Russ Chew would be leaving at the end of February. "We were hoping to keep hold on him longer, but this was an opportunity he just couldn't pass up," she told staff at a weekly meeting. Just what that opportunity will be is unclear because Chew said he has a number of options under consideration and has not made a final decision, though he plans to stay in aviation in some capacity. He has served as the agency's COO since June 10, 2003, after a long career at American Airlines as a line pilot and later in management. The FAA's COO oversees the operational and financial performance of the U.S. air traffic control system and the FAA's research and acquisition programs. Chew was the first person to fill the position created in 2002 by the AIR-21 FAA reauthorization bill. Before he accepted the job, the then newly created position sat vacant for more than a year because the FAA said it was unable to attract a qualified COO due to problems with compensation, responsibility and goals. No replacement has yet been named for Chew, and it is unknown what impact Chew's departure will have on the FAA's Next Generation Air Transportation System initiative.