Best Wishes to Senator Ford from the Aviation Community

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The FAA is a creature of Congress. The laws it enforces are largely dictated by the denizens of Capitol Hill. Not as visible is the exercise of the penumbra of power; those are informal, but equally powerful, messages sent to let the administrators of those laws, which let the civil servants know what the legislators would like the FAA to do. Senator Ford gets very high marks on his judicious exercise of both powers.

As is sadly noted in the below article, Senator Ford (pictured to the left) is receiving chemotherapy for lung cancer which has spread. His former spokesperson issued the following statement:

“I have been blessed with good health for most of my life…While these recent developments are unexpected, I have a very positive outlook and complete faith in my doctors. I am going to listen to them, do exactly as they say and leave the rest with the good Lord.”

Our best wishes and prayers are sent to the former Chairman of the Senate Commerce’s Committee on Aviation.

Senator Ford, as a very powerful Member of the Senate, had a very unpretentious demeanor with a pleasant visage and a lilting voice. Because he was so affable, he did not often raise his voice, nor did he need to. He was so well regarded that most wanted to do what the Senator suggested was the right thing to do because he was probably right. Calls, from his office and his very talented staff, usually drew a “yes, Senator” or “right, Martha” response instantaneously.

His formal actions were recorded in Subcommittee hearings, votes there and on the floor as well as enactment. For a Senator who made it clear that his primary focus was on Kentucky, perhaps Senator Ford’s most notable legislation was the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century”. President Clinton summarized the bill as follows:

This legislation contains important measures to improve aviation safety, increase airline competition, protect air travelers with disabilities, and boost assistance for the families of victims of aviation disasters. The bill also takes an additional step toward our long-term objectives for modernizing and reforming the FAA’s provision of critical air traffic control services.”

The mere fact that it reauthorized AIP (about $56 billion and an increase in PFCs) on a timely basis is notable, in retrospect, but it also made important amendments to Essential Air Services, made wildlife mitigation grant eligible, created another category of contract towers, addressed problems with bogus parts (including criminal penalties), protected whistleblowers, expanded service at DCA, created the Chief Operating Officer position an Aviation Management Advisory Council for ATO, created the Family Assistance Program for the NTSB, many other amendments and ironically a ban on smoking on commercial aircraft). Collectively that’s quite a legislative legacy.

It is appropriate now for all of the sunshine which you put in others’ lives to reflect back to you in Owensboro, KY. May all of those warm feelings suffuse you during these difficult moments.

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