Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who has been prodding the White House to drop its pick to head up the Federal Aviation Administration, has floated the idea of simply elevating the current acting head of the agency — Billy Nolen, a former airline pilot who previously led the agency’s safety organization.
Nolan has said he has faith in Phil Washington, the nominee, and does not want the job. Washington led transit agencies for two decades before becoming the CEO of Denver International Airport in 2021 and is not a pilot.
The Biden Administration nominates Phil Washington, a man with zero aviation experience, to head the FAA. That would be comical if it wasn't absolutely terrifying. pic.twitter.com/CllaXkfWPa— Marcus Gordon Anthony 🇺🇲 🙏🐕🦺♥️⛰️ (@MarcusGAnthony) March 3, 2023
During the hearing, Senate Commerce Democrats circulated a letter penned by three former top FAA officials — none of whom were pilots — voicing their support for Washington. It was signed by former FAA Administrators Michael Huerta and Jane Garvey, and former Acting Administrator Linda Daschle, who all served under Democratic administrations, saying that Washington “has the the necessary experience to be administrator.” “Having a 30,000-foot view does not require getting a pilot’s license.”
There might be an argument for having a non-insider with a fresh approach to the position but whoever gets the job is going to have their work cut out for them. As a nation we need to fix the FAA computer system which last year had a meltdown that led to the first nationwide grounding of flights since September 11, 2001. Then there are the other issues, including complaints about rampant flight delays and cancellations, fights over 5G broadband deployment, and changes to safety oversight following two lethal crashes of Boeing’s 737 MAX.