Mary Fackler Schiavo
, JD, is the outspoken former
of the United States
Department of Transportation
(DOT), where for six years she
withstood pressure from within DOT and the Federal Aviation
(FAA) as she sought to expose and correct
problems at the agencies. In 1997, after her stormy tenure at the
DOT, Schiavo wrote Flying
Blind, Flying Safe
, which summed up her numerous concerns
about the FAA's systemic flaws.
In 1987 and 1988, Schiavo, then known as Mary Sterling, handled
Intelligence Surveillance Act
(FISA) requests as a special
assistant to then US
Attorney General Dick
. From 1989 to 1990.She also served at the United States
Department of Labor as Assistant Secretary of Labor for Labor
She is interested in air safety and has represented many air-crash
In 1997, after leaving her post at the DOT and long before the
September 11, 2001 terrorist
, Schiavo wrote Flying Blind, Flying Safe
scathing expose of the fraud, corruption, waste, mismanagement, and
dangerous negligence in the aviation
industry and the FAA as a crusader for flight safety. Her primary
criticisms in the book focus on the FAA's reluctance to address its
many shortcomings, while expressing her concern that there was a
fundamental conflict of interest between the FAA job of oversight
and the FAA job of promoting aviation.
In Flying Blind
, Schiavo describes how the FAA uses a
formula ascribing specific monetary value to human lives, and how
the agency allows numbers to decide whether the cost of extra
safety is worth the additional expense (e.g., if equipping an
airline fleet with smoke detectors would cost $100 million, but
would only save 10 lives each worth $1 million, then the expense is
ruled out). Schiavo is similarly critical of the internal FAA
politics and the FAA's administrators. She writes, "I can't
remember when I started calling these men the 'Kidney Stone
Administrators', but I do know that it became apparent to me early
on that they were tolerated only because everyone at the FAA knew
it was merely time before they would pass."
One reviewer was critical of the book, because he felt that "[h]er
fundamental mistake is to argue that the FAA should pursue safety
literally at all cost." 
Schiavo criticized the FAA for
assigning monetary values to human lives; however laws requiring
cost-benefit analyses (like the Regulatory Flexibility Act) require
the FAA to assign monetary values to all potential losses and to
analyze the cost to the public if a proposed rule is implemented
and the cost if the rule is not implemented, so some of her
criticisms would be better aimed at the entire US governmental
regulatory system, and not just at the FAA. Nonetheless, there
seems to be common agreement that her efforts to expose FAA issues
ValuJet Flight 592 Crash
After the Secretary of
insisted that ValuJet
safe, Schiavo produced contrary evidence from government files.
book's analysis of the ValuJet Flight 592 Crash, Schiavo reviews evidence the FAA had to have known
ValuJet was quite unsafe.
The FAA wanted ValuJet to survive, according to Schiavo, and as a
result the FAA did not do its job of overseeing and enforcing
rules. The FAA later shut the airline down. In 1997, unable to
shake off the stigma of the crash, ValuJet merged with the smaller
AirTran and started operations under that name.
Schiavo also contends FAA officials refused to believe the US faced
a threat of domestic terrorism prior to 9/11
, alleging flight
schools "fairly well salivated at the thought of getting lots of
foreign students, and the FAA encouraged it."
She has represented many of the families who have sued the U.S.
airlines involved in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
- Aviation Safety Center - 'Mary Schiavos Books,
Articles and Other Resources for Aviation Safety and Security'
- AvWeb.com - Flying Blind, Flying Safe
by Mary Schiavo' (book review), Carl Marbach (June 23,
- Oprah.com - ' An Expert Weighs in' (from the
show "When Will You Fly Again?"), The Oprah Winfrey Show (November 16,
- PlaneSafe.org - 'Mary Schiavo Speech'
- StarTribune.com - 'FAA security took no action
against Moussaoui', Greg Gordon, Star
Tribune (Jan 13, 2002)