CAPE WIND'S NEW CHIEF PILOT
J. Randolph Babbitt is one of those lucky few who seems able to change his mind completely without feeling he needs to apologize. This is undeniable because as Randy Babbitt of Oliver Wyman consulting he was a consultant to the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound for FAA matters. Babbitt had been a career commercial airline pilot for Eastern Airlines, then founded his own cosulting firm, ECLAT, and eventually sold it to Oliver Wyman. From 2004 until 2006 he served as chairman of the FAA's Advisory Council and he has served as CEO of ALPA (Airline Pilots Association). The Alliance believed he was a perfect choice to press their claims that Cape Wind represents an aviation radar hazard.
Randy Babbitt has considerable experience in matters related to commercial air traffic and operations and the credentials to prove it. As a consultant to the Alliance he appeared to share their concerns about possible adverse effects on aircraft operations in and around Nantucket Sound if the Cape Wind project is built. The major concern is that the wind farm will interfere with proper operation of aviation radar. And, the FAA appears to agree that there will be radar problems. This is what FAA says in its own decision approving Cape Wind (determination of no hazard). Randy Babbitt has long been known as an advocate for and an expert in flight safety. This should have been a perfect case for him to handle.
There are two questions to be asked and, we hope, answered:
1. How can FAA issue a finding titled DETERMINATION OF NO HAZARD in which the agency sites specific problems that will be encountered in the use of aviation radar at higher altitudes over an area of sky much larger than the project's actual twenty-five square mile footprint? These radar problems will affect more than 400,000 flights per year, potentially, or am I misreading what you wrote for the Alliance when you were consulting to them, Randy?
2. How can FAA issue such a ruling when their Director since April of 2009 is the same J. Randolph Babbitt who advised the Alliance on how to oppose Cape Wind using radar problems as a tool?
FAA now joins the U.S. Coast guard (USCG) in admitting radar will be affected by the wind farm but also in saying that the problems are not a problem. The U.S. Department of Defense and the U. S. Air force at least are not caving in to FAA's nonsense and continue to express their disapproval of introducing new radar hazards into the skies over the Massachusetts coastline. Perhaps Randy forgot to tell them the fix is in.
Old Randy has some tense times ahead as the Alliance and others move toward the inevitible court battle over Cape Wind. His flying skills will be sorely challenged as he attempts to navigate the fog he has himself created....without radar and with damn few supporters in the cheap seats.
QUESTION: Randy....pardon me Your Honor, Director Babbitt, when did you change your mind and why?
QUESTION: Randy...that's right, Your Honor....Randy - what was that nonsense you fed to the Alliance to protect Nantucket Sound? Did you not tell them that cape Wind would be a problem for high altitude aviation over the southeastern Massachusetts coast?
QUESTION: Randy....you don't mind if I call you Randy, do you? Please tell the court who influenced you to issue The FAA DETERMINATION OF NO HAZARD. Please tell the court exactly by whom and when and under what circumstances you were advised or convinced to change your mind about Cape Wind's probable radar hazards.
QUESTION: Randy, while you were accepting compensation from the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound were you also sharing their confidential information with government employees? With FAA officials? With Cape Wind employees or professional service providers such as lawyers and engineers?
Of course, as long as Perkins Coie represent the Alliance to protect Nantucket Sound there is not likely to be such and exchange. There is still some honor among thieves. I think I know what the 'J' signifies in Randy's name....Judas. He was actually a first cousin to Pompous Pilot. Nice to see folks honoring the traditional names, isn't it? Although, it never occurred to me that the Alliance was paying its consultants in pieces of silver.