Anybody can submit an online petition to the White House on any topic they choose — and that’s just what somebody has done in the wake of FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt’s abrupt departure from the agency this week, in an attempt to build public support for an intriguing potential replacement: Capt. Chesley Sullenberger, known better as “Sully” to millions and firmly entrenched in aviation lore after his dramatic successful ditching of a US Airways Airbus A320 in the Hudson River in January 2009.
The anonymous blog post that got the movement rolling notes that "Draft Sully” is “grassroots effort to nominate Capt. Sullenberger as the next FAA Administrator.” It was begun by members of the aviation community “who care about restoring the FAA as the world’s gold standard in aviation safety. We are not associated with Mr. Sullenberger, but we believe that he, as a man of high integrity, is the perfect candidate for this job."
Since the post appeared, Twitter and Facebook users have warmed to the idea, which culminated with a Draft Sully petition on the White House website.
A similar tactic was used to help raise the profile of the fight against aviation user fees a couple of months ago to positive affect. But the rules for petitions have changed since then, making it less likely anybody in the Obama Administration will take notice.
Now, instead of 5,000 signatures, a petition must garner 25,000 signatures to ensure White House officials give the idea due consideration. Unfortunately, the White House website appears to have developed a few bugs, making it difficult or impossible for some visitors to sign the petition. As of this afternoon, it had garnered fewer then 200 signatures, far short of the total needed.
Here is what the petition says:
Dear Mr. President,
We, the undersigned, wish to see a revitalized and strengthened Federal Aviation Administration. In the wake of the Colgan Air Flight 3407 crash, delayed pilot fatigue rulemakings, the furlough of 4,000+ FAA safety inspectors and other employees in Summer 2011, and the continued stalemate in Congress over long-term funding, the FAA has been through a lot.
The FAA needs a steady hand who can guide it through uncertain times. We can think of no better person than Captain Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger, who guided US Air Flight 1549 to a safe landing on the Hudson River on January 15, 2009.
In addition to being a world-class pilot, Capt. Sullenberger is an internationally renowned safety expert. Mr. President, we respectfully request you nominate Capt. Sullenberger for FAA Administrator.
Michael Huerta has been selected as interim FAA Administrator as the White House and Department of Transportation formulate a list of suitable permanent candidates. Recently added to the discussion by enthusiastic Twitter users was actor Alec Baldwin, whose ejection from an American Airlines flight over a Scrabble-inspired iPhone game made headlines this week.
The “Draft Sully” and “Draft Alec Baldwin” camps will now face an uphill challenge convincing Obama Administration officials that their man is right for the job. In Sully, we would gain a leader with extensive aviation experience who would undoubtedly side with pilots on important issues and who isn’t a Washington insider. With Alec Baldwin, we’re not sure what we’d get, but we do know that his time in the post, however brief, would be immensely entertaining.