Biden nominates Denver airport executive as FAA head

·2 min read

President Biden on Wednesday nominated Phil Washington to lead the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) amid a resurgence in commercial flying demand that has made for a chaotic summer travel season.

Washington has worked in the transit industry for more than 20 years, previously heading Los Angeles’s public transportation system before becoming the CEO of Denver International Airport last summer.

If confirmed, he would head the aviation regulatory agency as it grapples with accommodating daily passenger totals that have approached pre-pandemic levels.

But as demand returns, mass delays and cancellations have wreaked havoc for many, especially during recent holiday weekends. Airlines and the FAA have pinned blame on each other for the issues.

Washington would replace acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen. The last permanent administrator was Steve Dickson, a Trump appointee who was previously a longtime executive at Delta Air Lines, who resigned from the FAA at the end of March.

Airlines for America (A4A), a trade association representing major U.S. airlines, congratulated Washington on his nomination in a statement on Wednesday.

“If he is confirmed as FAA Administrator, A4A and our member airlines will look forward to working closely with Phil Washington and will continue to collaborate with the agency to ensure that commercial aviation remains the safest mode of transportation in the world especially as we emerge from the pandemic,” said the group’s president, Nicholas Calio.

The FAA has also been in the spotlight for recent safety issues related to the Boeing 737 MAX.

After multiple fatal crashes prompted concerns over technical issues and a prolonged grounding of the jets, Washington will manage new oversight authority over airplane manufacturers that was passed by Congress in 2020.

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), who will lead Washington’s confirmation hearing as chairwoman of the Senate Commerce Committee, said in a statement on his nomination that the aviation industry is facing “important challenges.”

“Now more than ever, FAA must set the gold standard in aviation safety,” Cantwell said. “This starts from the top. I expect and will require strong leadership from the next FAA Administrator. I look forward to careful consideration of Mr. Washington’s nomination during the confirmation process.”

Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.), a member of the Senate Commerce Committee’s aviation subcommittee, celebrated the nomination of Washington, who currently works in Hickenlooper’s home state.

“Phil Washington will bring an organizational discipline to @FAANews during this time of stress and challenge,” Hickenlooper wrote in a tweet. “He’ll do great things in his new role!”

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