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TheStreet Open House

North Carolina's Latest Disgrace: Iconic Airport Chief Fired at 72

The next day, Orr submitted a letter to the city, saying he was employed by the commission. The city chose to view the document as a resignation letter, and Orr was told to leave the airport. "Obviously (the letter) was a mistake, but I think I was obligated to write it," Orr said, in an interview.

Meanwhile, in response to the city's lawsuit, a Superior Court judge temporarily halted the airport's transfer to the commission, pending Federal Aviation Administration review. So Orr now works for the commission, which is engaged primarily in waiting for the FAA review, while the city runs the airport without him.

Orr said he had little or nothing to do with the Republican power grab, although he conceded that "I went to work at the airport in April 1975 and on the second day I figured out that it desperately needed to be run by an airport authority. I have believed that consistently, and that's what I always said if anybody asked."

On Tuesday, Orr's attorney charged that the FAA was excluding commission representatives from any discussion regarding the airport's transfer, The Charlotte Observer reported.

While the Transportation Department oversees the FAA, former Mayor Foxx said he has recused himself from consideration of the airport's status. Even so, the appearance, at best, is that the transition -- a relatively simple one since the city would retain airport ownership and control -- is being delayed because someone wants to please their new boss. Either that or "recusal" means: "I'm watching - I'm just not saying anything right now."

US Airways has long had a good relationship with Orr, but it has never been a relationship where the airline got whatever it wanted. "Ask (CEO) Doug Parker," Orr said. "He says that when he first came to meet me, I said, 'Tell me what you want and I'll tell you what you can have.' I said it in a more gentlemanly manner, but the message was there. My job was never to give US Airways everything they asked for. It was to give them what they needed to be successful."

Now, one danger is that the city, seeking to make sure it does not endanger its relationship with the airline, will give away the store. Orr said he isn't aware of any specific concessions, but "if you do what people ask you to do, they will like you, and I think there is an overabundance of trying to be liked."

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