Tony Broderick, Icon of Aviation Safety, sadly passes

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Highly respected aviation expert

Known for his honesty

Exemplary Public Servant

There are few individuals whose career in aviation substantially improved SAFETY. Tony is one, if not a unique, contributor to the health of our industry. Given that history, this post will provide an extended recollection of Tony’s career.

First, some personal thoughts will be related.

Second, comments from Tony’s colleagues.

Finally, several commentaries from the trade press.

I.Personal comments

a— current thoughts about our colleague

Anthony was an icon of aviation safety and an exemplar of the civil servant who loved serving our industry with intelligence, energy and dedication. His directness sometimes masked the degree to which he valued his associates and his wry sense of humor. The physicist was a passionate NASCAR fan and his wife bred horses as a business– quite a contrast in interests.

He was a scientist by education (St. Bonaventure University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Physics), he tended to see issues through his precise analytical mind. That talent was the basis for his command of all aspects of aviation technology. The cause-and-effect discipline of his studies suited him well in defining regulatory responses to aviation threats.

The New York Times recognized his intelligence, but said that he was “lacking finesse.”

“Soon after the crash of the single-engine plane that killed 7-year-old Jessica Dubroff on April 11, the calls poured into the Federal Aviation Administration. How could the agency let a child fly a plane?

Agency officials turned to the same person they had relied on for years for quick answers to tough questions: Anthony J. Broderick, who has been the associate administrator for regulation and certification since 1988.

Mr. Broderick explained that Jessica was in fact a passenger in the plane with her hands manipulating the controls alongside her flight instructor. She was not “piloting” the aircraft, he said, because she was not a licensed pilot.

His response, which became the F.A.A.’s public stance, was signature Tony, as he is widely known: technically accurate, but somehow not what an outraged public was looking for.

With his departure, the agency is losing an employee with vast technical expertise and stamina, but whose scientific approach to decisions — favoring data over intuition — often seemed out of sync with urgent fears and worries of travelers.

“Tony has been the bearer of the carefully calibrated answer to every air-safety question,” said Jeffrey N. Shane, a Washington aviation lawyer and former Assistant Secretary of Transportation in the Bush Administration, “and I strongly suspect that most of his answers have been right.

“But there is not a market for technical answers to issues of air safety, which are ultimately not satisfying to the public. There is a market for the terrible, swift sword.”

A more insightful assessment would have recognized his iconoclastic tendency to attack poor analysis. Say something stupid and Tony would be quick to call out your shortcomings. His preference for scientific accuracy overrode any need for social niceties.

That honesty was also a strength. While his Hill testimony may not have met diplomatic standards, most Members recognized and revered his answers as straight forward and without any dissembling.

In spite of his gruffness, Mr. Broderick cared deeply for his troops. When the annual end of fiscal year game of chicken between the Administration presented a threat of furlough, Tony would assert that all of the people, save one, were ESSENTIAL (the test for pay eligibility during the fund less period), The unessential individual was Tony, so he averred.

Tony was the quintessential responder to John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address, January 20, 1961, when he said:

“The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavour will light our country and all who serve it — and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.

And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”This career public servant was the first to arrive at his office (living in Warrenton, VA, his alarm went off at 4:19 am) and frequently turned all of the lights off as he left. His focus on safety was unparalleled and industry’s respect for his opinions created authority when he stated his position.





Tony was not just another smart guy. His focus was always on how to make the aviation system better, safer, and more cost effective for users.

  • As an independent consultant, Tony was asked by FAA Administrator Jane Garvey Tony to co-chair an RTCA Certification Task Force charged to review end-to-end certification of advanced avionic systems to improve timeliness and reduce certification costs. Some of his more significant accomplishments include:
  • He led major initiative requiring airlines to phase in less flammable materials in cabin interiors.
  • The first in FAA to recognize the potential of GPS to support CAT III Weather Operations.
  • Introduced the FAA;s first risked based surveillance system
  • Responsible for the implementation of FOQA, ASAP, AQP and voluntary compliance programs
  • Introduced the Air Transportation Oversight tool (ATOS) made more effective use of limited FAA Inspector resources

There should be an award honoring his contributions.

He will be missed and may never be replicated.

 b. A previous post on the Journal

JDA post that really was a paen of praise for our friend Tony

FAA Reauthorization Focus should be both Transformational and Foundational

Should not Congress consider whether the FAA’s personnel (numbers, salaries, training, recruitment, etc.) are appropriate for future challenges?

Chairman Shuster has said several times that he wants to make the 2015 FAA Reauthorization Act TRANFORMATIONAL. What are the boundaries of this “change”? Clearly something needs be done as  the proposals for funding and governance of the ATC system and NextGen are complex and numerous.

It is (has been?) axiomatic that the FAA is the gold standard around the world for aviation safety. What is the foundation for the historic excellence? It’s people. Their assignments are expanding with increased duties: more flights, increased certification volume and complexity, the nationwide swarm of UASs, overseas oversights, etc. The positions and salaries have been stagnant, at best.

The senior staff has been brilliant in its development of regulatory strategies (SMS, SASO, etc.) which minimize the need for substantial staff distribution in the field. This data driven regime places even greater emphasis on the need for personnel, who are comfortable with analyzing statistics, determining what numbers matter and can collaboratively design solutions.

The current FAA staff has a high percentage of people eligible for retirement. That problem is also an opportunity; as new employees are hired, their selection criteria should be oriented toward these skills, particularly in the Aviation Safety sector.

What might be a good model for such new hires? Clearly trying to find the next Margaret Gilligan ,Teri Bristol , Edward Bolton, John J. Hickey, Nan Shellabarger and many other capable executives who perform so well. An example of what types of people who might excel in this new data regime may be found in recent history.

Anthony Broderick, Associate Administrator for Regulation and Certification 1986-1996, provides a good model.

His academic resume was not purely aeronautical (he did earn his pilot license), his credential as a BS in Physics provided the kind of intellectual firepower to ask probative, insightful questions. In 25 years of service (he started out assessing upper atmospheric ozone reduction at the DoT Transportation Systems Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts), Tony became a technical expert on all of the science and engineering of aviation. Part of the reason for his panoramic knowledge was his willingness to accept a wide variety of assignments. No staff person, who made a presentation on an arcane subject to the Associate Administrator, ever tried to “wing” it; all knew if you were not prepared and could not command all of the aspects of the subject, that Mr. Broderick would find that flaw.

A tough guy, but Tony was aggressive in his protection of his FAA people; in fact, one might say that his loyalty to his team was a flaw. His command of numbers was and is exceptional, but not unexpected of a physics major. Tony attacked his mission with passion; he was usually the first in his office at 800 Independence Ave. and the last to leave.

Integrity was his hallmark. He spoke the truth and with authority. People, particularly those on the Hill, listened. Sometimes his honesty could be interpreted as bluntness. Tony enjoyed debate and his spirited exchanges did not wither even when his dialogue was with an Administrator, Secretary or Senator.

Eighteen years after leaving FAA Mr. Broderick continues to serve the aviation industry. His passion for aviation safety remains strong and demands for his sage advice and counsel continues to grow. Evidence that the judgment which he honed during his federal service is highly valued by those whom he regulated.

Mr. Broderick is also a balanced man. He loves his family, helps his wife breed horses (he knows which mare is “heirworthy”) and loves NASCAR.

The House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee should not only examine transformational issues in Reauthorization. Their focus must include foundational issues; as the FAA moves forward, we must have an exceptional personnel roster to meet its ever increasing challenges. Mr. Broderick would serve as a good model of what future staff

ARTICLE: Shuster wants ‘transformational’ FAA funding bill

 II. Comments from Tony’s friends and peers


In my days at the FAA, there was no one whose counsel I valued more than Tony’s!  And he was unfailingly generous with his time and advice not only to me but predecessors and I know successors as well — we will all miss Tony greatly!

  • Steve Brown

Chief operating officer for the National Business Aviation Association

Previously FAA vice president of ATO operations

I found Tony to be a visionary leader who had high expectations and was generally sparse with praise! He led winning teams and gave generously of his time and insights.

  • Jim Coon AOPA senior vice president of government affairs and advocacy.

Tony was a doer. He was always well prepared and you could count on him to give it to you straight. I always appreciated and admired those attributes.

  • Mark A. Dombroff

I knew and worked with Tony for many years. There was no one that had a better command of the Federal Aviation Regulations. I once retained him to give expert defense testimony in a criminal case involving the indictment of the owner of a Part 145 repair facility. We were together for hours on end during the course of a six week trial. His idea of relaxation was sitting with his laptop open, reading the Federal Register to review the latest NPRMs and new rules.

We will miss you Tony.

  • Jim Loos

Retired FAA international expert:

I agree, almost everybody called him Tony, not “Mr” (FAA is not a “Mr” kind of organization), or Broderick, just Tony. He seemed to know almost everybody in the building.

I remember one time we were walking around the exhibit tent of a European airshow (maybe Berlin?) when he came upon an exhibit of nuts, bolts and screws and he was enthralled, and I had to wait…It’s not easy to tell an Associate Administrator to move on, even Tony. Never did find out what was so interesting. As the obituary says, the development of the FAA International Aviation Assessment Program was developed on his watch and that directly lead to the ICAO Universal Safety Oversight Audit Program, effectively expanding the audits to over 190 States.

I doubt that anyone in the building thought that Tony should have taken the hit for the Valujet problem, but he felt he should. I recall at the time one of the TV newsmen reporting the story volunteered that Tony was a good man and he was sorry to see him go. So were we all.

  • John R. Byerly
    Deputy Assistant Secretary, Transportation Affairs

I’d like to add to Jim’s comment.  Tony played the central role in conceiving and designing the IASA program, and his intellect and leadership made it an historic success.  Although implementing the program created some headaches at the State Department (no few irate American ambassadors bemoaning their country’s descent into “not compliant with ICAO standards” Category 2 status), global aviation is significantly safer as a result of IASA and Tony Broderick.  That’s a wonderful legacy.

  • Ray Valeika,

Delta Airlines, SVP Ops and Maintenance

I have had the pleasure to work with Tony over so many years. Absolutely an intelligent, competent engineer, great regulator, and a good friend.  I held Tony in great esteem!

III. The trade press

a. Former FAA safety chief Tony Broderick dies, aged 75

Dec 31, 2018

Anthony Broderick, former top safety official at FAA and aviation safety consultant, died Dec. 30 in Bealeton, Virginia, following a long illness. He was 75.

Known throughout industry circles as Tony, the influential aviation safety expert joined the US Department of Transportation’s Transportation Systems Center in 1971. Broderick’s work in several areas, including ozone reduction, led him to FAA in 1976, where he joined the agency’s Office of Environment and Energy High Altitude Pollution Program.

In 1978, he moved to FAA’s regulation and certification (AVR) organization, now known as Aviation Safety. During the next 18 years–including the last eight as AVR’s top official–he played central roles in several major regulatory initiatives, including the first Extended Range, or ETOPS, standards, the International Aviation Safety Assessment program, harmonization of U.S. and European regulations, and the aviation rulemaking advisory committee process.

In June 1996, Broderick resigned from his position as Associate Administrator of Regulation and Certification, part of the fallout of the May 1996 crash of ValuJet Flight 592 and subsequent Congressional and public scrutiny of FAA’s airline oversight.

“The events…mandate that you make major visible changes to improve the public confidence in the safety of our transportation system,” Broderick wrote in his resignation letter to FAA Administrator David Hinson. “My leaving will provide you with the maximum amount of flexibility to make those changes.”

Broderick stayed in the industry, serving as a consultant for several companies, including Airbus, Atlas Air, and FedEx. He retired in 2014.


b. A brief profile of the FAA’s Associate Administrator for Regulation and Certification.

By Scott Dyer ,
This biographical profile originally appeared in AVIATION CONSUMER magazine.
| October 27, 1995

Anthony J. Broderick was named Associate Administrator for Regulation and Certification of the Federal Aviation Administration in July 1988, after 17 years of government service.

As head of the agency’s Regulation and Certification complex, he is principally responsible for: certification, production approval, and continued airworthiness of aircraft; certification of pilots, mechanics, and others in safety-related positions; certification of all operational and maintenance enterprises in domestic civil aviation; development of regulations; civil flight operations; and certification and safety oversight of some 7,300 U.S. commercial airlines and air operators.

These programs have a direct and highly visible impact on every facet of domestic and international civil aviation and are the heart of the nation’s air safety efforts. Regulation and Certification programs are carried out by an agency force of approximately 4,300 employees located in Washington headquarters, 9 regional offices, and more than 125 field offices throughout the world. The Regulation and Certification work force is augmented by some 10,000 persons in the private sector aviation community who are designated to perform certain aviation safety functions on behalf of the Federal Aviation Administration. The Regulation and Certification budget is about $350 million per year.

Prior to his appointment, Broderick spent three years as Associate Administrator for Aviation Standards. For three years before that he served as Deputy Associate Administrator for Aviation Standards, having been a Technical Advisor since 1978.

Broderick, who is a private pilot, joined the government in 1971 as a physicist at the Department of Transportation’s Transportation Systems Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he was an internationally recognized expert on the complex problems of upper atmospheric ozone reduction. He moved to the FAA in 1976 as Chief of the High Altitude Pollution Program Staff in the Office of Environment and Energy. He came to the government from private industry where he was a project manager for optical and electro-optical systems development for seven years.

He has received the Arthur S. Fleming Award [1](1979) as one of the ten outstanding young men and women in the Federal Service; been awarded by the President the Senior Executive Service ranks of both Meritorious Executive (1982) and Distinguished Executive (1991); and been awarded nine Senior Executive Service Performance Awards, the FAA Superior Achievement Award (1988), and the Secretary’s Award for Meritorious Achievement (1989). He was presented a 1992 Aviation Week & Space Technology Aerospace Laurel for Government leadership in assuring strong FAA safety oversight of foreign airlines operating into the U.S.

Broderick is a 1964 graduate of St. Bonaventure University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Physics. He is married, with two children[2]. He and his family live in Warrenton, Virginia.

c. A Storm Even Broderick Could Not Ride Out


By the time the Georgia Democrat had finished on that 1986 morning, he had all but accused Broderick, in front of God and country, of deceiving the committee.WASHINGTON — From his exalted position on the dais, Sen. Sam Nunn fixed his gaze on the lowly congressional witness table where Anthony J. Broderick sat and launched into a stern lecture on aviation safety and honesty such as a minister might deliver to a wayward member of his flock.

And what did Mr. Broderick have to say about that?

Broderick replied calmly: “I don’t intend to.”

As resolute as an Oliver L. North, as politically Teflon-coated as a J. Edgar Hoover, Broderick over the years had quietly become an untouchable institution at the Federal Aviation Administration.

Presidents came and went. So did FAA administrators. But none dared lay so much as a pinky on Broderick, whose willingness and ability to weather megadoses of political heat was as valuable a commodity as any in this town.

[1] Established in 1948, the Flemming Awards honor outstanding federal employees. Recognized by the president of the United States, agency heads, and the private sector, the winners are selected from all areas of the federal service.

[2] One of his children followed his Dad into aviation. Sean Broderick is a highly regarded writer.


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14 Comments on "Tony Broderick, Icon of Aviation Safety, sadly passes"

  1. We have been feeling Tony’s absence for a long time, but news of his passing has cast a pall over celebration of the new year.

    I worked with Tony during my entire tenure at the FAA. He was full of life with a formidable intellect and did not suffer fools or dogmatic lawyers. As the years have passed and I witnessed government officials addressing issues from my vantage points inside and outside government, I came to understand just how far Tony stood apart, not only as smart, but also as unafraid.

    He understood the ways of the bureaucracy better than anyone, but was never a “bureaucrat”. He was willing to take risks in the interests of aviation safety problem solving. Just off the top, I recall the challenges of fostering aviation safety standards commonality with the Joint Aviation Authorities, which eventually became EASA, confronting aging aircraft issues, foreign repair station oversight – including suspending the certification of a repair station despite formidable political pressure brought to bear by the host country, addressing aviation security as the risks morphed from criminal to terrorist, the international aviation safety assessment program. IASA, for example, was his brainchild and I clearly recall his first meeting with me to discuss how to frame the international legal basis for it. It built upon the concept of the preexisting (and statutorily mandated) FAA overseas airport security assessment program instigated after the hijacking of TWA 847. We tussled long and hard with different perspectives on the US as the world’s aviation police. There is no doubt that Tony’s skills, ingenuity and courage on all these fronts measurably improved global aviation safety, a legacy that few can match.

    I hesitate, but will add one note of personal thanks. When I worked at the FAA, the number of women in leadership positions was very small. The Me Too movement would have left a number of offices empty. I worked closely with Tony and traveled with him and other FAA team members on countless international negotiations. He also stood apart for the unwavering respect and camaraderie he made me feel as part of the team. He was brilliant, yes, but also a truly good man.

    Irene Howie

  2. Let me add my thoughts about Tony. He was a straightforward guy who let you know where he stood. I never found him one to hold a grudge; disagreements were strictly professional, as were agreements. I always thought he was poorly treated after Valujet, but he bore it with grace. If Sean is a Mifnet member, I extend my condolences to him over the loss of his dad.

    Bob Robeson

  3. In my early days as a manager in the FAA, Aircraft Certification, I started to rub elbows with Tony every now & then. He always remembered me, always asked good questions and ALWAYS actively listened to the answers. By the time of ValueJet, the frequency of contact had gone up a bit and my respect & admiration for the man had grown considerably – I mourned when he took the hit & punched out, it was a very difficult time. Tony Broderick and Craig Beard were giants to me, both had a deeply philosophical approach to aviation safety that both were willing to share. I would sit at the feet of either man as frequently as I could, and would gladly do the same today. Tony Broderick made the world a better place, he was a great man and a fine person.

    Mike Borfitz

  4. Very said. When I think of Tony I think….Total commitment to mission. Thorough, thoughtful and tough. You had to be prepared if you talked to Tony.

    Ed Bolen

  5. John DiMattei | January 2, 2019 at 2:09 pm | Reply

    I had the privilege of meeting Tony Broderick while managing a wind shear program for Northwest Airlines in the early 1990’s. He was a gentleman – committed to advancing the capabilities of aircraft electronics (avionics). The flying public has greatly benefited from Tony’s work.

  6. Richard Abbott | January 2, 2019 at 2:53 pm | Reply

    I began my career as an FAA Safety Inspector in 1988 and never met Tony until after he retired. He was a consultant for an FAA contract I was working on in the mid 2000s and we got together several times in Washington to talk about risk management, system safety, and life. He was always engaging, helpful, and full of ideas. I always enjoyed meeting with him. He always believed in speaking out to the aviation community – especially general aviation pilots and mechanics. He was an early adopter of technology and I remember seeing his replies on the Compuserve aviation forums in the early 90s when he explained many regulatory issues and reasons they existed to aviation hobbyists and enthusiasts. It was very unusual for a high-level FAA executive to reach out that way. I don’t think he ever got rid of that email address – if I recall. He will truly be missed. All the best to his family.

  7. Carol Carmody | January 2, 2019 at 4:07 pm | Reply

    I had the good fortune and pleasure of dealing with Tony first at the FAA, later when I worked for the Senate Commerce Committee, and finally when I was the U.S. Representative at ICAO. We collaborated and conspired on many things: staffing numbers for FAA, certification issued, international aviation oversight, etc. He was always the person I could rely on for a straight, comprehensible answer. He was calm, rational, funny and kind. I remember speaking to him when he resigned from the FAA after ValuJet. He said “There is never the right time to leave this wonderful agency”, but he believed that was the right choice. I know I and everyone who knew him will remember him as the ideal public servant, a splendid colleague and a remarkable person.

  8. Tony was one of the finest professionals I ever knew. His analysis of aircraft accidents was thorough, accurate and most always resulted in refinements which improved aviation safety. I worked closely with him during the early days of TCAS implementation and found him reasonable and balanced in his approach. He was a brilliant and talented man and I mourn our loss.

  9. Roy A. Willliams | January 2, 2019 at 5:48 pm | Reply

    A great loss to our industry; but I have to point to Jim Loos’s comment–about Tony stopping to look at nuts and screws at an air show–

    Tony understood that people (and their successes and failures) drove our industry forward–but he also understood how small things were important!

    And so nice that so many leaders have commented on his passing.

  10. I had the privilege and the honor to meet Tony on the then FAA/JAA harmonisation work program. He was a great man, very knowledgeable and with a great vision. He did a lot fo Aviation Safety and his passing is a great loss. I wish to express my sincere condolances to his family

  11. Tony was a very direct person. Very knowledgeable in all areas of aviation. However like many leaders he was shielded from all the facts by his subordinates. He did the right thing and took the pipe for Value Jet. He knew the Agency could not take the political heat with him at the head. It was and still is a great loss for the traveling public and the FAA.

  12. I had the privilege of working for Tony on special inspections and serving as a technical advisor on aviation working group committees. I worked closely with his staff on the ETOPS certificate given to the Boeing Company for the B-777 he was calm and always direct and had great respect for all who worked under him at the FAA. His contributions to aviation safety and executive leadership will be remembered by all who had the pleasure of working and knowing him. My deepest condolences to his family.

  13. I would only add to the accurate commentary by others by observing Tony’s commitment to his focus on and caring for people who are involved in the very exacting sciences of aviation. He was a tremendous resource for answers to questions for those of us not possesing a deep understanding of engineering and its processes. For me, his lessons came with clarity and when required a sense of humor. My condolences to his family.

  14. When my dad, Richard Witkin, was Aviation Editor of The New York Times, Tony Broderick was perhaps his most important resource in the aviation safety community. He relied on Tony for accurate, unvarnished appraisals — the straight skinny — whether related to a airliner mishap or policy issue. He was known for his keen insights and complete intellectual honesty. Tony made flying safer.

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