Biden’s FAA nominee would bring management skills to the job

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Skift grip

Managerial skills may be what President Biden is looking for with his appointment of Transit Director Phil Washington to head the FAA. After this summer of flying chaos, managerial skills are perhaps what we need most now.

Edward Russell

President Joseph Biden has named Airport and Transit Director Phil Washington as his nominee to head the Federal Aviation Administration, following on the heels of former Delta Air Lines executive Steve Dickson, who is left suddenly earlier this year.

If confirmed, Washington would take over as head of the FAA after what is a disastrous summer for US air operations. and the cancellations angered Congress. Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) called the situation “unacceptable” and called on the Department of Transportation and the FAA to take action.

Washington, born in Chicago in 1958, would bring broad skills in transportation management to the FAA, a large organization with an annual budget of around $18.5 billion and 45,000 employees across the country. What he lacks is a lot of aviation-specific experience, having only worked as CEO of Denver International Airport – the third-busiest in the US last year – since then. July 2021. He previously led the Los Angeles Metro from 2015 to 2021 and the Denver Transit Agency from 2009 to 2015.

Washington’s lack of aviation know-how is a departure from the last FAA administrator. Dickson, who previously served as vice president of operations at Delta and a pilot at the carrier, resigned two years into his five-year term in March. During his brief tenure, Dickson oversaw the recertification of the Boeing 737 Max and worked to restore public confidence in the regulator after its oversight – or lack thereof – was widely seen as a contributing factor to both crashes. aircraft fatalities Max.

But managerial skills may be exactly what the Biden is looking for. The FAA is one of the largest organizations in the US government and oversees a critical sector of the US economy. Wednesday’s White House statement on the nomination, while devoid of any specific comment on why Biden chose Washington, highlighted his experience leading major public organizations.

Additionally, Politico reported that Washington was a key adviser to Biden on infrastructure issues during the 2020 campaign and served on the president’s transition team.

“Phil’s deep expertise in transportation, his service in the military, and his track record of helping Americans get safely to where they need to go, make him the right leader to help meet the challenges aviation today and prepare for the future,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said. in a report. He added that he was “delighted” with the appointment.

Washington would have its hands full if confirmed. What the regulator could do to address problems with airline operations is unclear, especially given the long lead times needed to hire and train new airline and air traffic control staff. United chief operating officer Jon Roitman warned staff on Tuesday it could last well into the fall. And the next administrator will also likely be tasked with addressing the pilot shortage that many US airlines face.

Additionally, following the 737 Max debacle, the FAA slowed its certification of new planes. This has delayed the approval of several new Boeing models, which in turn has forced some airlines to seek alternative options – including the use of planes from rival Airbus – to meet the needs of their fleets in a context of increasing delays. Boeing is the largest US exporter.

Washington’s appointment comes after a months-long search for a new FAA administrator. Among those considered for the role are United driver and former Ohio congressman John Boccieri; Deborah Hersman, former chair of the National Transportation Safety Board; Bradley Mims, FAA Deputy Administrator; and Sully Sullenberger, pilot of the US Airways flight that crashed into the Hudson River in 2009 and US representative to the International Civil Aviation Organization, or ICAO.

A Denver airport spokesperson declined to comment on Washington’s nomination.

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