Aviation Safety loses a Phenomenal FAA Public Servant

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The FAA, like any human institution, depends on the quality, intelligence and integrity of its people. On June 12th, the FAA and aviation suffered a major blow when Jay Pardee died.

On behalf of aviation safety professionals, we extend our deepest condolences to his family and friends. Jay’s name and his record of achievement will remain in our memories and his standard of excellence will inspire future generations of employees of the organization for which he devoted 44 years of his career.

Thanks to ARSA for publishing Jay’s obituary.

Fittingly, Administrator Huerta recognized this exceptional civil servant by saying:

“Jay Pardee’s leadership and innovation is in large part responsible for today’s outstanding U.S. commercial aviation safety record.”

Sarah MacLeod, ARSA’s Executive Director, who worked a lot with Jay, added her thoughts:

“Jay was always supportive of mutually beneficial meetings…He never dismissed the industry’s concerns or solutions merely because they weren’t aligned with the agency or his own view of a situation. With his ability to listen and understand multiple positions, the solutions he endorsed were always feasible.”

Having had the experience of having communicated with Jay as an FAA colleague and then as an outside advocate, he had the rare ability to listen to a problem, understand its significance under the FARs and policy and not say NO. His command of the details of the rules allowed him to see alternatives, meet the FAA’s safety mandate and define a path of compliance for the certificate holder.

His career shows that meritocracy exists within the FAA. He started at an entry level, worked his way from Branch Manager up to Assistant Director and then Director of the Engine Certification Office. The executives in Washington noticed the quality of his work in New England and brought him to headquarters. There his upward trajectory escalated– the Safety Integrated Product Team Director, the Aviation Safety Analytical Services Director, then Director of Office of Accident Investigation and Prevention. The next title reflected Jay’s ability to communicate; he was named Chief Scientific and Technical Advisor for Vulnerability Discovery and Safety Measurement Programs, where his primary duty was to advise “government and industry on collaborative data-driven safety enhancement development and implementation.”

He was the global ambassador of data-driven, risk analysis. That approach, of which Jay was one of the early apostles, is likely to lead to a new, higher global standard of aviation safety.

To all but the few cognoscenti who understand the FAA’s position responsibilities, it is difficult to assess Jay’s impact. The list of awards which Jay earned defines his amazing accomplishments:

  • 1999 – FAA Administrator’s Certificate of Accomplishment for Leadership of the Safer Skies Initiative for Commercial Aviation
  • 2000 – Award for contributions and leadership of the Certification Process Improvement Team
  • 2001 – Flight Safety Foundation President’s Citation for Outstanding Achievement in Safety Leadership
  • 2008 – Collier Trophy, as part of the Commercial Aviation Safety Team,” for achieving an unprecedented safety level in U.S. commercial airline operations by reducing risk of a fatal airline accident by 83 percent, resulting in two consecutive years of no commercial scheduled airline fatalities.”

One of Aviation’s highest awards is the Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy and its selection criteria are set in the following paragraph:

The Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy is awarded annually to a living[1] American for significant public service of enduring value to aviation in the United States. The words “public service” are interpreted to include either (1) public service whether as a full-time employee of government or as an unpaid volunteer serving on a government commission or agency, or (2) service which made a major contribution of enduring value to the public. The word “aviation” should be interpreted broadly to include aerospace activities.

[1] Why must the WBMT be awarded to someone living? Never made sense and deserving candidates like Jay and J. Lynn Helms have been categorically excluded. Did death diminish their accomplishments?

The 67 individuals, who have received the WMBT, do not include ONE career FAA employee. Jay certainly met and exceeded that standard.

Perhaps it would be appropriate to establish an award which recognizes the professional staff of the FAA. They are much maligned, unfairly, but there are many others who have tremendous talent, who work hard and enthusiastically and who contribute greatly to US and global aviation safety.

→ Maybe such a trophy should be called the Pardee Trophy of FAA Aviation Safety Excellence?

ARTICLE: ARSA Remembers: Jay Pardee

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