You are looking at the official portrait of former FAA Administrator Langhorne Bond, whom we lost, sadly, this past weekend at the age of 84. It hangs in the FAA’s headquarters not far from the office all of his successors have occupied.
He is holding his coat open to reveal both a belt and suspenders. He insisted on that detail, he said, because of what it conveyed about the FAA’s safety culture. It speaks volumes even to this day, and it is why America’s aviation safety record is second to none.
When reading mostly distorted news stories about the FAA’s objections to 5G towers near airports, remember how safe you feel while flying and be grateful for that belt-and-suspenders culture. Yes, the FCC said it addressed the interference problem. But Congress didn’t vest any accountability in the FCC for your safety in the air. Within government, that accountability rests with the FAA alone.\
Langhorne’s tenure as FAA Administrator during the Carter years was distinguished by some pivotal advances in aviation technology. He initiated development of TCAS – the Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System – and implemented the Ground Proximity Warning System (GPWS) . He approved the first over-water air carrier service based on two-engine operations (ETOPS). At one point he grounded the global DC-10 fleet over a suspected design defect — as big and controversial a story as the more recent 737 Max episode.
He had served earlier as Illinois Secretary of Transportation under Governors Dan Walker, a Democrat, and Jim Thompson, a Republican. Before that he headed the National Transportation Center in Pittsburgh. In the mid-60s he worked for Under Secretary of Commerce Alan Boyd to get the Department of Transportation Act passed. It was, and when Alan Boyd was appointed by LBJ as DOT’s first Secretary, Langhorne became DOT’s first Chief of Staff.
Following his departure from government in 1981, he began a career in consulting. Among other achievements, he successfully advocated adoption of a new worldwide standard permitting single-engine turbine aircraft in commercial operations. He later became an early, vocal champion of establishing a backup for GPS, as well as an advocate of air traffic reform in the U.S.
Langhorne Bond had a long and distinguished career in transportation policy, but he will be missed by his friends for other, more important reasons – his great spirit, his unfailingly open and honest approach to issues, and his unbounded generosity. He rode to work at DOT in the ’60s on a Honda Superhawk. He loved racing sports cars. He was an iconoclast, a renowned raconteur, and an all-around man about town. “Larger than life” is an overused sobriquet, but it was no exaggeration when applied to Langhorne. To his wife of nearly 60 years, the similarly accomplished Queta Bond, we send deep and heartfelt condolences. We will miss you, dear friend. Rest in peace.
Those, who called the AOA-1 telephone number, will get the significance of his address