Parks honors FAA Chief

The head of the Federal Aviation Administration spoke in front of a crowd of Saint Louis University students, alumni and the public about aviation safety issues after Sept. 11 last night in the Bauman-Eberhardt Center.

As well as lecturing in front of a crowd of approximately 200 people, FAA Administrator Jane F. Garvey was also honored with Parks College of Engineering and Aviation’s highest award, the Vanguard Award. Garvey was the fifth recipient of the award that honors those who make significant contributions to aviation safety.

Provost Sandra Johnson introduced Garvey, but not before explaining to those in attendance how SLU is “uniquely positioned to take what we learn in aviation safety and apply it to medical safety” because SLU has a strong medical campus.

Garvey started her speech by saying how honored she was to be recognized by such an esteemed university.

“Seventy-five years ago Lindbergh arrived in Paris . to advance the cause of aviation,” Garvey said.

“Today there are 600 million passengers a year on American flights, and travel and tourism is the largest export industry in the United States. Progress like this cannot be taken for granted.”

She went on to explain to the audience how the events of Sept. 11 affected her personally.

“Nothing spoke more clearly to me about the airline industry than its silence on Sept. 11,” Garvey said as she spoke of watching thousands of blinks on the radar screen dwindle down to nothing. “It was as if the heart of the nation ceased to be.”

Garvey then addressed issues such as how to manage airline safety in a time of war, the importance of border control and the challenge of not losing sight of other responsibilities.

She ended her speech by speaking of Lindbergh once again, remarking how he thought of aviation as part of the continuum of the human endeavor, then opened the floor for questions.

One question concerned racial profiling at airport security checkpoints and why it is not used. Garvey responded by saying the approach the FAA is taking is selection by criteria.

“We are working with the FBI to understand what those criteria might be, but we are doing it in a way that is respectful without being discriminatory,” Garvey said.

George Peters, a 1960 graduate of SLU’s Institute of Technology, asked Garvey to compare the security levels in U.S. cities with those of other major cities such as London, Paris and Tel Aviv. Peters, who has worked for McDonnell Douglas and Boeing in the aerospace industry for the past 42 years, said airline security has become a new paradigm.

Garvey said that Israel’s approach is more of interrogation, which has led the country to be deemed having the most secure airlines, but they also have a much smaller number of people they serve: 650,000 people, as compared to the millions in America. She also explained that Israel uses secure cockpit doors because security is much more important to them than issues such as decompression and emergencies, which are the major reasons why the United States never secured the doors in the past.

After the question-and-answer session, Charles Kirkpatrick, dean of Parks, presented Garvey with the Vanguard Award.