Thomas Stuckey had a three decade long career as a top FAA safety manager. Back in 2008 he was the top FAA safety official in charge of a six-state area known as the Southwest Region. His job was to oversee and insure the safety of airlines like Southwest and American Airlines among many others. At the time Stuckey was a relative unknown to most people outside of the aviation industry.
His public anonymity would disappear in the spring of 2008.
In April of 2008 Stuckey and the former top Washington FAA safety official Nicholas Sabatini were called to testify before a Congressional hearing investigating safety problems with Southwest Airlines. The hearings drew widespread national media attention as they focused on how and why Southwest Airlines had been allowed to fly airplanes in violation of FAA safety regulations. The FAA had dropped the ball and allowed the flying public to be put at risk. After the hearings the FAA demoted Stuckey and removed him as the FAA’s Southwest region's top manager, although he remained employed with the agency. Over a year later with little fanfare and no publicity Stuckey quietly retired from the agency. What happened to Stuckey after his public removal from his FAA position has been little known, until now.
The Enterprise Report has learned that Stuckey has now resurfaced as an aviation consultant and expert for a leading aviation consulting company. The company, JDA Aviation Technology Solutions of Maryland lists Stuckey as its “VP Business and Commercial Aviation Solutions” citing his credentials as the “Former Manager FAA Southwest Region” and “33 year FAA career” and “Acting Director Flight Standards Service FAA HQ”. In an online bio of Stuckey’s career, there is no mention of his FAA demotion and his recent retirement from the agency. JDA cites Stuckey's extensive knowledge and contacts at his former agency the FAA.
When reached for comment, FAA spokesman Laura Brown, told TER that whether or not Stuckey had been demoted at the FAA for his lack of adherence to safety regulations and policy at the FAA was “not relevant” to his case. FAA spokesman Brown said the only “relevant” issues were ethical guidelines spelled out for ex-FAA employees after they leave the agency and their work with the agency after doing so. In late 2009 the FAA proposed new rules that what would prohibit the kind of "revolving door" conflict of interest issues that the Stuckey case highlights. In 2008, Stuckey along with the FAA's top safety official at the time Nicholas Sabatini were grilled before Congressman James Oberstar’s transportation committee over the FAA's actions in allowing Southwest Airlines to operate airplanes in violation of safety regulations. After the hearing, the committee sent a scathing letter to Stuckey and other FAA officials accusing them of giving the committee misleading testimony under oath.
In the letter Committee Chairman Oberstar told Stuckey and the others “we cannot condone misleading testimony in our hearings, and in last weeks hearings you were sworn under oath to the tell the truth.” Just this past March the U.S. Office of Special Counsel issued a scathing report about the FAA and the safety operations of the Southwest Region while Stuckey was in charge.
The Enterprise Report recently spoke directly with Stuckey in an exclusive interview regarding the Southwest Airlines issue and his career with the FAA and his new job in the private sector. In an extensive telephone interview he claimed that he was proud of many years with the FAA that he had “moved on” from his past as longtime FAA official. In response to allegations that had mislead or covered-up safety problems while with the FAA Stuckey repeatedly insisted that he “did not say anything that was misleading or untruthful to the committee” that was investigating the Southwest Airlines safety issues in early 2008.
Stuckey told TER that before moving into his new position with JDA as a consultant he directly informed the FAA of his new position and its duties to insure compliance with any ethical issues related to him being a former FAA official. Stuckey told TER "I sent a letter to the FAA in regards to what I would be doing and they responded back giving me the ok concerning any ethical guidelines that applied" Despite his own troubles with the FAA in 2008, Stuckey says he “holds the FAA in the highest regards and it’s a great organization”