Jim Ballough passes, but his human touch will be remembered at the FAA & by all involved in Aviation Safety

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Jim Ballough

While flying requires wings and powerplants // lift and thrust to transition from land to air, flight safety is a matter of human brains and heart // intelligence and focus being continuously committed to those aspects which minimize risk before and after the plane operates. Jim Ballough mastered the engineering aspects of aviation, but more significantly, Jim was a world class expert in caring about all the people in aviation safety, his chosen profession.

Below are words written about Jim by his family and his colleagues from the private sector. This is an attempt to highlight Jim’s impact on the FAA.

Jim BalloughAt a time when joining the Army was waging an unpopular and incredibly dangerous war in Viet Nam, Jim signed up for service. After his honorable discharge in 1973, he was hired as a mechanic by Eastern Airlines. Based on that valuable experience, the FAA offered him (1986) a job in his native Western Pennsylvania as the principal inspector for US Airways. In 1999, recognizing his abilities, I promoted him to the head of the Eastern Region’s Flight Standards organization.

Two years later, another Eastern Region alumnus, Nick Sabatini moved him to Washington. There he would, with great distinction, lead the national organization of 4,800 employees responsible for the safety of all aviation within the US and around the globe.

Jim Ballough

This was a time in which Congress’ budget hawks reduced and continued to reduce the appropriations for the FAA’s positions. The message from the Hill was that the agency’s human resources were “commodities” or easily replaced widgets. That view was not well received by Jim, who valued all of the people who worked for him as important, talented professionals. He did what he had to do, but his intense caring for everyone was readily recognized by all within the FAA hierarchy.

Jim’s sensitivity for people was not limited to those within the FAA; he had an exceptional awareness for all working on aviation safety. He was an early advocate for focusing on the human factors of Aviation Maintenance Technicians and from his AFS-1 position he made sure that this perspective was included in all of the women and men within his organization.

For example, his office was assigned the difficult task of writing rules for all aspects of aviation. The FARs define what must be done and by definition what may not be done. Jim, in reviewing those prescriptions for safety, took the time to make sure that the men and women, who carried the compliance burden, COULD DO what these mandates compelled. He understood that these sentences had to be “enforceable,” but before he would sign off on a proposal, he wanted his writers to be sure that the people in the cockpit, cabin or hangar were capable of doing what the new FAR would require.

People mattered to Jim. He knew from his years in the Army, Eastern and FAA that expectations must be high, but having made repairs in adverse conditions, his experiences taught him that it was not right to demand more that was humanly possible.

Jim was an exemplary FAA leader and his contributions to aviation safety will be remembered for many, many years.

Unfortunately, Jim’s passing is one in a recent series of talented aviation safety professionals—Tom Accardi, Dr. Jerry Berlin, Judge William Fowler, Jay Pardee and Al Ueltschi.

Jim’s contributions are on a par with these other dedicated safety professionals. They all will be missed, but memories of them and their constant striving for the highest levels of excellence will inspire many in the future. Jim’s star in that pantheon will reflect his warmth and caring for people. 

Jim Ballough

FAA official inspired family to dream big

Jim Ballough

KARI ANDREN

By Kari Andren | Wednesday, May 4, 2016, 11:00 p.m.

In his personal and professional life, James Ballough believed “the sky’s the limit,” family members said.

An aviation mechanic who rose to one of the highest positions in the Federal Aviation Administration, Mr. Ballough inspired his children to dream big, his daughter, Lauren Ballough, said

“He really taught me that nothing was impossible and inspired me to reach for the stars,” she said. “He was the self-starter who set out to do all these things. He got his degree and really just worked his way up. That really inspired me to do what I set out to do.”

James “Jim” Ballough Jr. of North Huntingdon died Tuesday, May 3, 2016, after a 7 12-year battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 66.

“He did everything big. He was a larger-than-life personality,” his son, James Ballough III, said.

He inspired his brother and two nephews to pursue careers in aviation, said Juliette Ballough, his daughter-in-law.

He met his wife of 45 years, Michele Ballough, on a beginner ski slope at Seven Springs Mountain Resort when he was 20 and she was 21, she said.

“There I was, in all this gorgeous ski equipment … and I couldn’t ski worth anything,” she said. The couple married 10 months later, after Mr. Ballough enlisted in the Army.

He was a veteran of the Vietnam War.

“When he went away, we realized we loved each other so much,” she said.

After his discharge three years later, Michele said her husband saw a newspaper ad for airplane mechanic positions with Eastern Airlines in Miami and the couple moved to Florida for his new job.

In 1986, the family moved to Pittsburgh for Mr. Ballough’s job as the principal FAA inspector for US Airways. In 1999, he was promoted to a regional FAA position in New York, and, two years later, he was appointed the FAA’s director of the Flight Standards Service in Washington, just after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“Being alone in all these cities, you had to have a best friend, and he was mine,” his wife said. “We were a team.”

Through all the moves, business trips and long hours, Mr. Ballough was always eager to spend time with his children doing what they loved — be it riding horses in Miami with Lauren or fishing on the first day of trout season with son James III.

He told them in later years that he never really cared for some of those activities.

“I always thought he enjoyed it, but years later he’d say, ‘Hell, no! Who wants to be on a horse in jeans and 100-degree heat?’ ” Lauren Ballough said.

In addition to his wife and children, Mr. Ballough is survived by three siblings, Margaret Estelle, Susan Pastor and Michael Ballough; and nieces and nephews.

Friends will be received from 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. Sunday at the William Snyder Funeral Home, 521 Main St. in Irwin. Parting prayers will be at 9 a.m. Monday in the funeral home, followed by a Mass of Christian Burial at 9:30 a.m. in the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Irwin.

Memorials can be made to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (www.pancan.org), 1500 Rosecrans Ave., Suite 200, Manhattan Beach, CA 90266. 

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In Memoriam: Jim Ballough, an Inspiration

Jim Ballough

May 5, 2016

James “Jim” Ballough, Jr. passed away on Tuesday, May 3, 2016, after a seven-year battle with pancreatic cancer. He was only 66. Many of you knew Jim from his days at the FAA, where he was Director of the Flight Standards Service. He was a real force in aviation safety and will be missed by friends and colleagues around the world. While aviation safety has lost one of its strongest advocates, we have also lost a wonderful man who demonstrated amazing strength, courage, humor and resiliency, particularly during the past few years. Probably one of the toughest foes cancer ever met. His obituary, from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review is here. A real inspiration to anyone facing long odds. The world is certainly a lesser place without Jim in it. The thoughts and prayers of the aviation community are with Jim’s family.
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ARSA Remembers: James ‘Jim’ Ballough, Jr.

Source: Aeronautical Repair Station Association (ARSA) May 5, 2016

James J. “Jim” Ballough, Jr. passed away at his home on May 3 after a seven year battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 66.

A Vietnam veteran, Jim earned his B.S. in Professional Aeronautics from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University and graduated from the Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics’ AMT program. He started his civil aviation career as an A&P mechanic with Eastern Airlines before becoming an FAA safety inspector. He quickly rose through the agency, serving as principle maintenance inspector of US Airways and manager of the Eastern Region’s Technical Branch before his promotion to director of the Flight Standards Service in Washington, D.C.

After 27 years of public service, Jim transitioned to the private sector as vice president of Cavok, a division of Oliver Wyman in Keller, Texas.

“[Jim] was one of the finest public servants I’ve known,” said Marshall S. Filler, ARSA’s managing director and general counsel. “He did what he thought was right even when it wasn’t popular or politically expedient. Nor did he avoid tough decisions; though he worked to build consensus he managed to get things done without it. He will be sorely missed.”

Jim was a vital supporter of ARSA’s during his tenure with the FAA as well as in his private career. The association’s team sends deepest condolences to his family and many friends in the aviation maintenance community.

Jim is survived by his wife of 45 years Michele; his children Lauren and James III; and siblings Margaret, Susan and Michael. He was preceded in death by his parents, Betty and James Sr.

To see Jim’s full obituary, click here. To leave condolences and share memories with Jim’s family, visit www.snyderfuneralservices.com.

In lieu of flowers, remembrances can be made to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.

James J. “Jim” Ballough, Jr. passed away at his home on May 3 after a seven year battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 66.

A Vietnam veteran, Jim earned his B.S. in Professional Aeronautics from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University and graduated from the Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics’ AMT program. He started his civil aviation career as an A&P mechanic with Eastern Airlines before becoming an FAA safety inspector. He quickly rose through the agency, serving as principle maintenance inspector of US Airways and manager of the Eastern Region’s Technical Branch before his promotion to director of the Flight Standards Service in Washington, D.C.

After 27 years of public service, Jim transitioned to the private sector as vice president of Cavok, a division of Oliver Wyman in Keller, Texas.

“[Jim] was one of the finest public servants I’ve known,” said Marshall S. Filler, ARSA’s managing director and general counsel. “He did what he thought was right even when it wasn’t popular or politically expedient. Nor did he avoid tough decisions; though he worked to build consensus he managed to get things done without it. He will be sorely missed.”

Jim was a vital supporter of ARSA’s during his tenure with the FAA as well as in his private career. The association’s team sends deepest condolences to his family and many friends in the aviation maintenance community.

Jim is survived by his wife of 45 years Michele; his children Lauren and James III; and siblings Margaret, Susan and Michael. He was preceded in death by his parents, Betty and James Sr.

To see Jim’s full obituary, click here. To leave condolences and share memories with Jim’s family, visit www.snyderfuneralservices.com.

In lieu of flowers, remembrances can be made to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.

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