Is New York’s new aviation ‘czar’ in over her head?

There are two things we know about New York’s new aviation ‘czar’, who was named today. And we know them simply because an online search of Marie Kennington-Gardiner’s name reveals it.

First, she seems to be good at keeping her name out of pretty much everything. Very good, actually. There are only nine mentions of her on the Web.

Here’s what a 2006 Time Out New York editorial supplement (PDF download) about nontraditional colleges had to say about her:

Marie Kennington-Gardiner was able to get an M.S. in management of technology at Polytechnic University in two years, going to school full time and working full time. Her courses were given every other Thursday night and all day Saturday.

“I have three small kids, plus my job requires me to travel about 75 percent of the time,” says the FAA account manager, who assesses needs for airports all along the East Coast. “This school schedule accommodated my work and my family schedules. I looked at five schools, but I chose Polytechnic because of this schedule. If I did a program somewhere else where I had to go several nights a week, or all weekend long, I think my husband would have killed me. It would have been a recipe for divorce.”

Second, we know Kennington-Gardiner will serve as director of the New York Integration Office, which was created by the Transportation Department last year as part of a coordinated effort to address chronic aviation delays in the New York region.

We know that because the Transportation Department tells us. And in almost the same breath, it says it’s a big job.

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So the question that these two facts raise, at least in my mind, is this: Does someone who just two years ago was an FAA account manager who had finished a night degree have what it takes to manage the nation’s most congested airspace?

I don’t know Kennington-Gardiner beyond what the Transportation Department press releases says. It assures me she’s got the right stuff.

“Marie brings us a wealth of background and experience in integrating diverse and complex projects. She knows the issues, the constituencies, and has a successful track record of consensus building that will help implement solutions to the congestion issues that face us in the New York-New Jersey region,” Acting FAA Administrator Robert Sturgell said.

Forgive me for questioning the government, but it might be nice to have a few facts. What made her the best person for this high-profile job? What, specifically, qualified her for it?

Otherwise, a casual reader might be left with the impression that Kennington-Gardiner is in over her head.

Personally, I hope that’s not the case. New York’s overcrowded airspace needs all of the help it can get.

And I wish her lots of luck.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

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