[ARCHIVE] 1996-07-09: Outspoken F.A.A. Critic Quits Transportation Post

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Here is a copy of an NYTimes Op-Ed following the resignation:

Ms. Schiavo Quits

(NYT Editorial, published: July 13, 1996)

Mary Schiavo, the Transportation Department’s inspector general, was not a conventional government watchdog. For one thing, she barked. Most other Federal  internal police officers are content to audit and report quietly to their superiors about small irregularities. Ms. Schiavo, a former prosecutor who freely acknowledged “I love the hunt,” preferred to make noise — especially about the Federal Aviation Administration.

Even so, her refrain that the F.A.A. was too clubby with the airline industry and too slow to move on safety matters only lightly rattled the agency and the airlines — until May 11, when a ValuJet airliner crashed in the Everglades, killing 110 people. At that tragic moment, Ms. Schiavo was finishing a guest article for Newsweek. She managed to insert a denunciation of the low-cost airline and its regulators and swiftly became a sought-after television personality.

Ruffled officials and politicians like Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska called  for her dismissal for undermining confidence in commercial aviation, but Ms. Schiavo said the problem lay with them. She renewed the decades-old complaint that the F.A.A. should not serve as both regulator and promoter of the airline industry, and her views prevailed when Transportation Secretary Federico Pena called for reform limiting the agency to regulation. Then, after Mr. Pena and other officials insisted that ValuJet was safe, Ms. Schiavo produced contrary evidence from government files. “I don’t sell tickets for ValuJet,” she said. The F.A.A. later shut the airline down.

Ms. Schiavo, who is 40, resigned abruptly this week, but except for making clear that nobody had forced her out, she became uncharacteristically reticent about her reasons. Very likely she will write for profit about her career and causes, and she is expecting a second child in three months. Although often theatrical and at times erratic, she has been a useful irritant to the established regulatory order and a force for safer skies.


UPDATED 11/21/2016