Bob Cook from the FAA will be retiring after this week. You may not know the name but you certainly know his work.
He has been involved in a tremendous amount of rulemaking and policy making efforts at the FAA. The one that sticks in my mind is 14 C.F.R. 21.137. Bob was part of the team tasked with coming up with a modern vision of quality assurance. It would have been very easy to create a subjective rule that was vague and made compliance difficult; instead, 14 C.F.R. 21.137 very clearly establishes objective criteria expected in a modern quality assurance system.
How did 14 C.F.R. 21.137 come into being? Bob once told me that they put together a wish list of quality system elements, and then he led a chopping block exercise in which they asked for each element (1) what safety value does it provide and (2) does the FAA really need to regulate this element? This exercise allowed them to remove many elements that were nice to have, but that were not necessary and therefore did not need to be part of the regulation. The result was a quality assurance regulation that serves as a model for the entire global industry. It is the sort of regulation that no one complains about – no one thinks it is overbearing and no one thinks it falls short of what it should address. That is a rare sort of regulation, indeed. This was the sort of reasonable approach to regulation that we always expected from Bob Cook.
Bob sent an email announcing his retirement. It read (in part):
To all those that I have worked with over this last 17 years in the FAA and 40+ in the aviation industry:
I will be retiring on June 23rd. I wish to thank each of you for helping to make my time at the FAA both enjoyable and rewarding. I have stated many times that this has been the best job I ever had, and I truly meant it. The managers and the management team I worked for (while being frustrating at times) provided me with every opportunity to learn and progress within the organization.
To those that I had the pleasure of working with on aviation issues I want to thank you for all the time, effort and concern you placed on the continuous improvement of quality within our industry. Your openness to share quality improvements and working, as an industry, through organizations such as the IAQG, AAQG, AIA, GAMA, and MARPA to establish quality standards and a quality system oversight processes that are used internationally, is one of the greatest achievements of which I had the pleasure to be involved.
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After 40+ years of working in the aviation industry I expect it will be hard for me to just walk away so you may see me commenting on rulemaking as a concerned citizen. If you do, I hope to see a better response than “Thank you for your interest in aviation safety”. I will miss working with you on issues that makes our aviation industry the safest and most respected in the world.
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Very Soon to be a Private Citizen
We will miss his attention to detail, his willingness to listen, and his commitment to safety.
If anyone wants to send Bob a thank-you or goodbye message, then he is still in the office this week, and his email is Robert.firstname.lastname@example.org.