Three Aviation Heroes in FAAland

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The WHO is doing WHAT in Aviation Safety is OPAQUE

Know their experience is useful to read their actions

First group of three, send us more names, please

Aviation is only as good as the people who chose to work in the business. For unknown reasons, there seems to be a dearth of information about the professionals who occupy the positions where important safety and policy decisions are made. To help to fill in this gap, the JDA Journal will periodically share some of the names which come to our attention (please feel free to send personnel news to



The Chief Counsel (AGC-1 from its old pre-DOT days when it was the general Counsel) is a critical function within an organization which relies heavily on legal processes and powers. AGC-1 sets the broad parameters of LEGAL policy (it’s a fine point, but the Chief Counsel guides how to apply the law, not to dictate the outcome…………….). The volume of work moving from in-boxes to the out does not permit the chief legal officer from reviewing each matter; so, part of the “executive” discretion is deciding when and how to get involved.

Several years ago, the FAA’s legal positions received some bad judicial responses. Where the decision as to how to argue an appeal or what powers can/should be exercised in an NPRM or ??? was made[1] is unclear. Here are some examples of that disappointing string of decisions:

The terms of the Santa Monica “Compromise” are not clear; their resolution may impact Airport & the FAA Direction in the Trump Administration





Out of the Ashes of the DC Circuit Court on the NEPA review of the FAA NextGen at PHX implementation, some better approach must RISE

Things at which the FAA is not good (not many and for good reasons)

The 90 second Emergency Evacuation is a Performance-based Safety rule

About 18 months ago, a new AGC was appointed and his leadership was evident.

Arjun Garg appears to have many of the same outstanding academic qualifications as his predecessor:


Counselor Garg’s work at Kirkland & Ellis was complex appellate litigation[2], at the Department of Justice involved very high profile cases and his time as the Chief Counsel of FTA added vital insights into heading a legal team.

His official FAA biography


Arjun Garg was appointed Chief Counsel, AGC-1, at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in February 2019.

In this role, he serves as the chief legal advisor to the FAA Administrator and FAA leadership, and manages the legal and administrative staff of the Office of the Chief Counsel. He also liaises with the Office of the General Counsel of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), as well as the chief counsels of the other operating administrations of the DOT.

Mr. Garg joined the FAA after serving since April 2018 as the Chief Counsel of the Federal Transit Administration, another operating administration within the DOT.

Prior to his service at the DOT, Mr. Garg was a trial attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Division, where his work focused primarily on defending federal policies, programs, and decisions in cases involving matters of constitutional and administrative law. In that role, he was awarded a Special Commendation for Outstanding Service in 2017.

Mr. Garg previously worked for over five years at the law firm Kirkland & Ellis LLP in Washington, D.C., where his practice principally involved corporate litigation and counseling. He also served as a law clerk to the Hon. Thomas F. Hogan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Mr. Garg received his undergraduate degree in economics from Princeton University and his law degree from the Columbia University School of Law. He grew up in the Washington, D.C. area, and resides in Arlington, Virginia with his wife and daughter.

Sophia Ghezai 

Director, Aviation Safety and Operations

Perhaps one of the most difficult and demanding Washington aviation safety jobs if being the eyes and ears of the eight airlines who are A4A’s members. The buildings at 600 and 800 Independence Ave. are resident to the women and men who manage the FAA’s safety programs.

That staff initiates projects which impact the airlines. Sophia’s job is to be in contact with them to assist in the drafting of those directives; for the real world of airline maintenance, operations and training is not always intuitive. Her “mailman” job is to help the headquarters staff understand those practicalities.

Equally, Sophia hears constantly from her airlines about what this AD means or how this new FAR is to be applied. Having received such an inquiry, she then must find the definitive source of knowledge at the Orville and Wilbur Wright Buildings, explain the question, listen to the regulatory response and then translate bureaucratic terminology into airline vocabulary. That same linguistic talent is oft exercised when a new HDQ pronouncement is released.

Finally, the former airline pilot has to exercise vision as to what issues are coming from over the horizon. Her awareness of her members’ concerns and her familiarity with the FAA agenda helps establish a list for the frequent A4A meetings.

A4A’s Sophie Ghezai Encourages Girls to Soar to New Heights

Throughout aviation history, women have made their mark on the skies, propelling the industry forward and inspiring girls to continually reach for their dreams. From self-taught inventor E. Lillian Todd to pilots like Amelia Earhart and Helen Richey, women have been pioneers in aviation and role models for girls around the world who dream of a career in the clouds.

Sophie Ghezai, Airlines for America’s Director of Safety and Operations, is one of these inspiring women. In 1991, she became the first female pilot at Ethiopian Airlines. During her time there, she faced shock and pushback from some passengers, including a man who told her that he wouldn’t have booked the flight if he had known a woman would be his pilot. But despite the adversity, Sophie continued to succeed in her career and cleared the path for the women who would follow in her footsteps.

“You know that you have to work hard to make it, to make sure that you excel, because the expectation is there and everybody’s eyes are on you as well,” she said.

Sophie served as a pilot for 12 years before eventually joining Airlines for America. Today, she also mentors young women in the Washington, D.C., area, encouraging them to reach for the sky to achieve their goals.

“Most of these young women don’t even know the opportunity is there. So I’m trying to tell them, it is there, as long as you are determined, you are passionate about it and you’re consistent about what you want to do.”

Clearly, she has all of the relevant experience. Education ans skills

Marvel Studios’ First Female-Lead Superhero Captain Marvel Takes To The Skies

Part Of Specialized Livery On Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 MAX

Ahead of the highly-anticipated release of Marvel Studios’ Captain Marvel on March 8, International Women’s Day, Alaska Airlines unveiled a special-edition plane today, featuring Marvel Studios’ first female Superhero lead. The Captain Marvel-themed plane was debuted today at Sea-Tac International Airport at a gate celebration for guests flying to Orange County, CA.

“This new plane featuring Captain Marvel will delight guests of all ages,” said Natalie Bowman, Alaska Airlines’ managing director of marketing and advertising. “We’re excited to showcase a pilot who’s risen to Superhero status––an image that embodies strength and confidence and inspires future aviators across our expansive network to go further.”

Decked out in a stunning red and navy suit, Captain Marvel is taking flight and commands the attention she deserves as a female pilot who acquired special powers to fight for the greater good. Guests boarding the Captain Marvel-themed plane will see a film logo when they board. An image of a cat named Goose from the film, will surprise guests seated over the wings.

“Our collaboration with Alaska Airlines is taking our fans ‘Higher, Further, Faster’ with this amazing opportunity to fly with our fearless Superhero and pilot, Captain Marvel,” said Mindy Hamilton, SVP of Global Partnerships for Marvel. “We are so excited that our fans will be accompanied by Carol Danvers on their next adventure.”

The Captain Marvel-themed 737-800, tail number N531AS, begins flying throughout Alaska’s route network today. With a cruising speed of 530 mph and sporting a larger-than-life image of the movie’s namesake Captain Marvel, the plane will visit fans throughout the country via cross-country routes and flights to Hawaii.












While this Captain Marvel is fictional, her super powers are indicative of all airline PICs and SICs.

[1] The DOT’s General Counsel retains final authority and there have been occasions in which the Secretary and/or the Administrator did not concur in the legal judgment. In some rare cases, the Department of Justice may exercise its ultimate legal interpretation power.

[2] A K&E this associate may well have worked with Senior Counsel, Bill Barr, who is now the US Attorney General, a big plus if correct.


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