First Woman FAA Administrator is named First Woman UA Chair

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United Names First Woman As Board Chair—A Job That Was Supposed to Go to Its Embattled CEO

The Right Person at the Right Time

New UA Board Chair brings experience from FAA 

Crisis, Unions, Computers and Safety 

from FAA to UA

Having known Jane Garvey when she was FAA Administrator, it came as no surprise that the United Airlines Board of Directors selected her to be their next non-executive Chair and the first woman to hold that seat. The United biography is brief and thus, misses the experiences which well qualify her to lead the challenged Chicago airline; her UA page:

Ms. Jane Garvey is North America Chairman of Meridiam, a PPP development and investment firm focused on greenfield opportunities 
in transportation, water and social infrastructure. Prior to assuming this position in 2009, Ms. Garvey served on the Transition 
Team for President Barack Obama. Prior to that, she headed the US Public/Private Partnerships at JPMorgan, advising states on 
financing strategies for state governments. Garvey served as the 14th Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) 
and is the former Chairman of the BiPartisan Policy Project.

The FORTUNE magazine article asesses the status of the company she now chairs:

Garvey succeeds Robert Milton, a former Air Canada chief executive officer who led United’s board for two years and announced plans 
last month to step down. Garvey, who guided the FAA through the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, serves as North America 
chairman of investment firm Meridiam Infrastructure. She joined United’s board in 2009.

As non-executive chairman, Garvey will oversee United CEO Oscar Munoz’s effort to widen profit margins to the levels enjoyed by 
Delta Air Lines (DAL, +2.72%) and American Airlines Group (AAL, +3.08%). United (UAL, +1.73%) is also weighing an order of long-range 
jetliners and looking for a new chief financial officer to work alongside President Scott Kirby, who is spearheading an expansion plan 
focused on winning back market share in key hubs such as Chicago and Denver.

Arriving at 800 Independence Ave. in 1997, the FAA was still on the defensive in response to the ValuJet 592 crash. Her strong leadership restored a positive atmosphere in the headquarters. An airworthiness problem, which had been festering for 2 years in regard to the TWA 800 fuel tank, was resolved when she and the NTSB Chairman agreed on an inspection program to identify possible sources of ignition.




On a more macro level, her term was marked with issues, such as

  • the modernization of the FAA ATC System,
    • inheriting a program which was described as “dysfunctional”; she left the agency “better focused and more customer-driven.”
  • Being an early advocate in the effort to utilize data to improve aviation safety-

administrator advocates safety





  • Incredibly important in today’s SMS/SASO/SRM environment



  • assuring that the computers would not fail due to Y2K,
  • ATC delays,
  • Addressing an adverse environment for women in the ATC service,
  • Hammering out a very favorable contract with NATCA, the controller union—
    • Negotiated, –yes NATCA and the FAA were outside of the normal pay federal employee pay controls–significant salary raises and enabled full performance level controllers to earn $127,000 a year base salary
    • Reduce 30% of supervisors by attrition, thus reducing the ability of management to “control” the men and women in towers and on scopes
    • The reduction of the supervisors created a fund which allowed a  1% increase air traffic controllers (particularly in busy towers),
    • eliminate 30% of supervisors by attrition, replacing them (initially) with 1% more air traffic controllers (particularly in busy towers), while shifting some of the leftover supervisor pay to the controllers, as raises.
    • This was the first federal union contract with merit-based incentives.




Perhaps her most significant accomplishment while she ran the FAA was responding to the 9/11 attack. Under recent legislation Administrators were appointed for five years and she continued after President Bush was elected. When it became clear that terrorists were attacking the United States, she was on the front line at the agency’s command center and supported the decision to ground all flights within US airspace. The process of resuming commercial flights was adroitly managed under her leadership.







At the end of her five years, a point when the Bush Administration was able to replace her with a Republican, it was reported that she was offered and turned down an extension. A true mark that even the opposition thought that she has performed well. The five preceding Administrators had averaged 35 months in office with several departing without much fanfare.

The aviation industry has become increasingly balkanized; perhaps less so at the beginning of the 21st Century, but impressively, awards flowed from several different segments of this sector:







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1 Comment on "First Woman FAA Administrator is named First Woman UA Chair"

  1. Good for her, agree United made a good decision. As I recall she didn’t think my Y2K jokes were funny, but I forgive her for that.

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