U.S. Department of Transportation
Director, Joint Planning and Development Office
CLASS OF 1964
To say that John Kern enjoys flying would be an understatement;flying has been at the heart of every position that he has held since his graduation from Washington & Jefferson College .
The son of a steel worker and a school teacher, Kern started his flight training in the U.S. Army ROTC's flight program when he was a student at W&J.There were five or six of us,he recalls.We went to Washington County Airport and all got our pilot licenses. Immediately after his graduation, he became a U.S. Army pilot in Vietnam , service that earned him the Bronze Star and Air Medal with Oak Leaf Clusters.
At the end of the war, Kern began working his way up through the Federal Aviation Administration, eventually becoming one of the FAA's highest ranking officials. His 20 years at the FAA were followed by 10 years at Northwest Airlines in four different vice president positions. He also flew as an air crew member. After retiring from Northwest in 2001, he continued to consult for the FAA and NASA, but his retirement was short lived. After only a year, he was called to help design the Next Generation Air Transportation System Integrated Plan as director of the Joint Planning and Development Office. In this position, he coordinates researchers, scientists, and policy makers from the Departments of Transportation, Defense, and Homeland Security, the FAA, NASA, and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. His task? Nothing less than designing a new air traffic system that can handle the increased demand for air travel and do so with no delays, speedy and convenient flights from all cities, and reliable service despite the weather. He says its a 20- to 25-year plan.
Kern is a man of vision who knows how to solve complex problems by leading diverse teams of military personnel, scientists, industry CEOs, and U.S. senators. Where did he learn this skill?;At W&J, he says. I got to know people with totally different lifestyles and backgrounds. W&J broadened and diversified my experience.In addition, the variety of classes he took at W&J prepared him to talk to leaders from science, the military, and industry. His W&J education gave Kern confidence that he could pursue any field that he chose. This confidence along with determination and a passion for air travel has guided Kern through a successful career.
Kern is retired and lives in Rosslyn, Virginia, and Sanibel Island, Florida. He now captains his boat, the Jewel Box, and has twice traveled the Intracoastal Waterway along the east coast of the United States .