FAA Administrator Choses 1st Internal Candidate to lead ATO

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ARTICLE: FAA Names New Air Traffic Organization COO

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Russ Chew, Hank Krakowski and David Grizzle are the men who previously occupied the position of Chief Operating Officer of the Air Traffic Organization. Recently in an email to the FAA (not a press release), Administrator Huerta named Teri L. Bristol as the next occupant as the leader of the 35,000 controllers, technicians, engineers and support personnel. ATO also is responsible for defining, developing and implementing the NextGen satellite-based ATC system of the future.

Ms. Bristol constitutes a change in course from past appointments. She is the first COO who comes from within the FAA to lead this business unit. Chew (American), Krakowski (United) and Grizzle (Continental) all had years of experience with an airline. Their appointments reflected a need for the users’ perspectives to be incorporated in the ATO decisions. The FAA website includes the following observation in support of such a nexus:

Entire industries rely on the successful operation of the national airspace system. Aviation accounts for 11 million jobs and is responsible for more than 5 percent of our gross domestic product.

A4A swiftly issued a press release congratulating her on the appointment

Ms. Bristol’s resume is based within the federal government. She was recruited by the DoT from college to work on acquisition management programs and found her way to the FAA where she has moved up through both operational and support roles. Her appointment has been supported by the two major unions — PASS and NATCA.

The ATC culture has long been characterized as resistant to change and is even inwardly focused. Perhaps the three previous COOs had difficulty leading the ATC brotherhood because they did not come from within? Ms. Bristol is the first internal FAA candidate to take this position. Over her 20+ years within this organization, Ms. Bristol has created a network of contacts which will support her decisions and promote them among the rank and file.

The transition of today’s ATM system to the NextGen of the future requires exquisite executive talent. Ms. Bristol faces the challenge of directing the technology changes and equally tricky alteration of the human interaction with the machines and the users which NextGen will impose on the ATO. Administrator Huerta spent the better part of six months to identify the Deputy COO as the successor to David Grizzle. In the end he selected a proven inside leader capable of balancing the requirements of the users and the needs of the FAA in the implementation of NextGen.

Congratulations Mr. Administrator for a gutsy call and best wishes for success to Ms. Bristol.

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