- The Foundation prefers to look forward rather than dwell on the past. At times conscience demands we restate our judgement, if only to ensure that silence is not mistaken for mute approbation.
- FYI: email addresses are included after the letter.
To Mr. Jonathan Gaffney, President, National Aeronautic Assoc.
cc: NAA Staff and Board
Subj An Open Letter re NAA’s Cliff Henderson Award to Marion Blakey
Dear Mr. Gaffney,
We were truly dismayed to read on AvWeb that the National Aeronautic Association has seen fit to recognize Marion Blakey as the recipient of NAA’s Cliff Henderson Award.
As you know, in 1960 the NAA clarified the award as a honored recognition of “a living individual… whose vision, leadership or skill made a significant and lasting contribution to the promotion and advancement of aviation and aerospace in the United States.”
NAA lists the previous honorees, and when we look at the roster it is an impressive list of distinguished people, and their consistent attributes are courage, integrity, and leadership. The honor roll includes Crossfield, LeMay, Link, Cochran, Borman, White, Lindberg, Doolittle, Gann, Robertson, and Poberezny.
Cliff Henderson’s history and work in the National Air Races, the Bendix Trophy, and the development of LAX have left a lasting imprint on American aviation. We are all the beneficiaries of Cliff Henderson’s efforts.
People do remarkable things in aviation. The machines and devices are incredible, but the equipment is only the artifacts conceived and wrought by the people of aviation. People – not machines, not corporations – have made American aviation what it is.
Aviation is where we are today because we stand on the shoulders of such giants as the previous recipients of the Cliff Henderson award, each of whom understood and respected the value and dignity of their aviation colleagues.
Given that, we are puzzled at NAA’s decision to honor Marion Blakey. Blakey’s legacy at FAA is one of deprecating and diminishing people, trampling the spirit of aviation, and prioritizing corporations and money over people and vision. In Blakey’s FAA tenure we see no courage, no integrity, and no leadership.
The list that Marion Blakey does belong on would include Frank Lorenzo, Carl Icahn, Mayor Daley, Joe Miniace, Jack Whitehead, James Farley, the Bergoff Brothers, Nathan Shefferman, and Martin Jay Levitt. Blakey’s name does not belong on the NAA’s list of worthy prior recipients.
What Ms. Blakey has done and what she chooses to do (currently CEO at AIA, Aerospace Industries Association) is not any fault of NAA. But when you decide to honor her and when you commingle NAA’s name with hers, then NAA is embracing and endorsing her philosophy, history, and legacy.
Marion Blakey’s legacy is the elevation of corporations and money over people and vision. Would anybody say, Cliff Henderson was the Marion Blakey of his time? We think not.
Finally, let’s compare the award criteria and Blakey’s accomplishments.
a living individual (pass)
vision, leadership or skill (fail)
significant and lasting contribution (fail)
promotion and advancement of aviation (fail)
in the United States. (pass)
Being a living American is Blakey’s sole qualification for this award.
In a world with Sullenberger, the Rutan brothers, Kelleher, Garvey and Branson, NAA’s voluntary choice to align with Marion Blakey is inexplicable and does a disservice to NAA’s character and history.
We believe that NAA has not fully considered this nominee, or may have been misinformed or rushed in the vetting. Please do not cast this unfortunate shadow over the honorable accomplishments of Cliff Henderson.
The Praxis Foundation
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