Obituary for One of Airline Deregulation’s Architects

Michael E Levine
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Michael E. Levine

Airline Industry Icon Passes

Aviation recently lost an historic icon whose career led to the deregulated airline industry of today. On February 3, 2017 Michael E. Levine passed, R.I.P.

Almost 4 decades ago, the economic regulation of airlines was the full time occupation for the staff of the Civil Aeronautics Board, for departments within most airlines, lawyers and economists. A brash young professor, holding appointments at CalTech and USC, used interdisciplinary approach to expand on his 1965 paper “Is Regulation Necessary? California Air Transportation and National Regulatory Policy” 74 Yale Law Journal 1416 (1965).

When Alfred Kahn was appointed Chairman of the CAB, he hired Michael Levine to be the Board’s General Director, International and Domestic Aviation. Under their leadership, academic credibility and energy, the Chairman and his General Director drove the CAB, Congress and the White House to the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978.

One may argue the merits of whether breaking the bonds of regulation is a good or bad idea; Levine cogently commented, “The choice is between imperfect markets and imperfect regulation.” Unlike many theoreticians, Prof. Levine was not intimidated by the challenge of applying his comments in the real world. Mike worked at New York, Northwest and Continental airlines:

Michael E Levine

He also returned to academia and held endowed chairs at NYU, Yale and Duke.

One of his many epitaphs took the time to chronicle all the collateral talents which Mike developed over time:

  • He held pilot’s license and used it to fly around America.
  • As a music aficionado, he assured high fidelity to the sound by expertly assembling a high-end sound systems. His vinyl library included thousands of records ranging from Brahms to Thelonious Monk and Little Feat.
  • Mike so loved champagne that his passion became known to the Krug family. His champagne cellar was considered stellar.
  • Michael E LevineMike was an avid car enthusiast and was known to scrutinize the automotive trade press with the same intensity as a Microeconomics PHD thesis. This expertise became known to his friend; so much so that José A. Cabranes, a U.S. appeals court judge who was a classmate of Mr. Levine at Yale Law School commented “I never bought a car without consulting him.”

PERSONS OF VISION, PARTICULARLY THOSE WHOSE EYESIGHT IS PRESCIENT, ARE RARE HUMAN COMMODITIES. MR. LEVINE WILL BE MISSED.

 


In Memoriam: Michael E. Levine
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