FAA SUPS Coordinator, Ken Gardner, Retires

Since the FAA’s dedicated SUPs Office at Dulles Airport was closed, Ken Gardner has coordinated the FAA’s efforts related to SUPs reports and investigations. Ken was a tireless supporter of anything that advanced aviation safety, and as a consequence he was active in educating other agencies and the public about SUPs.  He helped several other countries start their own SUPs programs.  He investigated wrong-doing and he coordinated the interface with law enforcement investigations that were parallel to FAA safety investigations.  He educated law enforcement agents about how aviation safety works and about what they should be looking at when they examine an aircraft part.  He wrote policy concerning SUPs identification and disposition and enforcement.  He even interjected sanity into the enforcement process when a little sanity was required.  Throughout all of this, Ken always had a smile and a good word for anyone that worked with him.

Ken is retiring and Michele and I attended his retirement ceremony at the FAA yesterday.  Ken was honored with the FAA’s Castellated Nut Award. It is an award given for a lifetime of service within the FAA’s Maintenance Division, recognizing the people who have quietly kept our nation’s aircraft safe.  He was also honored by the FBI and the DOT OIG for his work in supporting law enforcement efforts aimed at keeping bad parts out of the system.

The morning after his retirement ceremony (this morning), Ken emailed his friends with the following statement.  Ken has done so much to ensure support aircraft parts safety in our industry that I thought everyone would appreciate his closing sentiments.

It has been an honor, privilege and very rewarding to have worked with each and everyone of you over the years.

Thank you all for so many wonderful memories and friendships that will live in my heart and mind forever! I will see some of you again in the near future.

We have done some really great work in the interest of aviation safety for the flying public, aircraft owners and operators. As I paraphrase a statement that was written by Karin Jarman and read by my boss yesterday at my retirement ceremony ( Even though the number of lives we saved could not be reflected in data, just knowing that we saved 1 is well worth the time and effort we have all put into the program).

Regardless if we were part of a government agency or a private individual or company in industry our partnership in the program has been a milestone for global aviation travelers that I am proud to have been part of.  Not only has it been felt in the civil world but also the military operations.

The work accomplished by the Industry SUP Steering Committee Group had been so beneficial that I tried to put it back together in 2007 but I was not able to gain the funding needed. I am still trying to bring this to light as well as the LEA team meetings we once held and I hope the FAA will be able to provide some funding to support these items. With the addition of our military agencies and our interest in National Security we will find that the aviation worlds are very small and that invisible fence is very low and can be crossed on any given day. With that in mind the Operation Fractured Skies Taskforce is a giant step to provide a safety objective for both civil and military operations. It appears the FAA is looking to signing the draft MOU we worked so hard to get together. That will be a great beginning to improving the working relationship of the agencies if only by communication goals.

For those who made the ceremony yesterday an unforgettable event in the lives of my family and my life Thank You for your kind words and attending.

As I told my boss last evening as I was departing his office I am not abandoning the program but rather passing it on for continued success and I will continue to work with them until it is up to speed.

Thank you all for working with me and I look forward to staying in touch.

Dance like no one is watching, Fish like no one is around, Love like there is no tomorrow but always continue to respect everyone like you do now!

Best Regards, Stay Safe, Thanks for the GREAT WORK and So Many Wonderful Memories my Friends!

Ken Gardner
Aviation Safety Inspector
Flight Standards Suspected Unapproved Parts Program Headquarters Focal Point Washington, DC

About Jason Dickstein
Mr. Dickstein is the President of the Washington Aviation Group, a Washington, DC-based aviation law firm. He represents several aviation trade associations, including the Aviation Suppliers Association, the Aircraft Electronics Association, the Aircraft Fleet Recycling Association and the Modification and Replacement Parts Association.

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