After 19 Months, the FAA Has a Leader

Michael Whitaker confirmed in 98-0 Senate vote
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 26, 2023 1:50 PM CDT
Updated Oct 24, 2023 7:16 PM CDT
FAA Nominee Withdraws
Phil Washington, the administration's previous nominee, testifies before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on March 1.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
UPDATE Oct 24, 2023 7:16 PM CDT

After 19 months, there's finally somebody in charge at the Federal Aviation Administration. Michael Whitaker, a deputy FAA administrator during the Obama administration, was confirmed to a five-year term running the FAA in a 98-0 Senate vote Tuesday. Whitaker, who has held senior roles at several airlines, had the support of several aviation industry groups, CNN reports. He has acknowledged that the agency faces "big challenges" after a seres of close calls and has promised to bring in the technology needed for "the aviation system of the future."

Mar 26, 2023 1:50 PM CDT

After twisting in the Senate winds for nine months, President Biden's nominee to head the Federal Aviation Administration has given up on the job. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg tweeted Saturday night that Phil Washington has withdrawn, Politico reports. "The FAA needs a confirmed Administrator, and Phil Washington's transportation & military experience made him an excellent nominee," Buttigieg posted. "The partisan attacks and procedural obstruction he has faced are undeserved." Republican senators, mostly, said Washington didn't have the aviation experience to run the FAA, per the New York Times, and brought up a corruption investigation in Los Angeles, where he once worked.

Washington has less than two years' experience in aviation, all in his current job as chief executive of the Denver airport, after working for transit agencies. The Senate committee handling Washington's nomination delayed a vote on it last week; two Democratic members hadn't committed to voting yes, and the party has only a one-vote majority on the panel. The FAA, which is dealing with a crisis of public confidence after large-scale flight cancellations and close calls at airports, hasn't had a permanent leader for a year, per Axios. The agency will be leaderless for months more while the Biden administration finds a candidate with a better chance of surviving the Senate confirmation process. (More Federal Aviation Administration stories.)

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