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Tue, Jan 09, 2018

Huerta Steps Down As FAA Administrator

Term Ended On Saturday At Midnight With No Replacement On The Horizon

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta's term as FAA administrator ended at Midnight Saturday, and the Administrator stepped down from his post with no replacement identified to lead the agency.

Huerta was appointed to lead the agency by President Obama in 2011 following the resignation of Randy Babbitt from the post in the wake of an alleged drunken driving incident. The DOT said an news release that current deputy administrator Daniel Elwell will become acting administrator until a replacement can be identified and confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Many media organization have drawn a connection between Huerta's resignation and a recent Tweet by President Donald Trump in which the President seemed to claim credit for a year where there were no fatal airline accidents. But Huerta has made no secret of the fact that he did not expect or plan to continue in the post when his term expired. At trade shows such as AirVenture in 2017, he made several references to the "last time" he would appear as the Administrator.

Responding to a question about the end of Huerta's term, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said: "I don't have any personnel announcement on that front."

The FAA administrator serves a five-year term independent of elections. The position is one of only a few to have that distinction.

Elwell became FAA deputy administrator in June.  “Dan's background as a military and commercial pilot and past leadership positions in FAA and the aviation sector ensures a seamless transition to continue the important mission of the FAA,”  said Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao in a news release announcing his promotion to Acting Administrator.  

Upon Elwell becoming Acting Administrator, Carl Burleson, FAA’s Deputy Assistant Administrator for Policy, International, and Environment, will be assigned to perform the duties of Deputy Administrator in an acting capacity and Tina Amereihm, FAA’s Deputy Assistant Administrator for Information and Technology, will become the FAA Chief of Staff, replacing Chris Rocheleau, who recently was named Executive Director for International Aviation.

Recognizing Administrator Huerta’s service, Secretary Chao stated, “Our nation is grateful for Administrator Huerta’s service to the FAA and his commitment to aviation safety.”

Dan Elwell previously served as FAA Assistant Administrator for Policy, Planning and Environment from 2006-2008.  From 2013 to 2015, as Senior Vice President for Safety, Security, and Operations at Airlines for America (A4A), he was responsible for helping to advance commercial aviation safety and security excellence for major U.S. air carriers.  Elwell was Vice President of the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) from 2008-2013.

Elwell was a commercial pilot for 16 years with American Airlines, flying DC-10, MD-80, and B-757/767 aircraft. While maintaining his proficiency as an MD-80 Captain, he served as Managing Director for International and Government Affairs at American Airlines.  He earned his pilot wings at Williams Air Force Base in Arizona after graduating from the U.S. Air Force Academy.  Elwell is a former Air Force Lieutenant Colonel who retired from military service as a Command Pilot with more than 6,000 hours combined civilian and military flight time in the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Air Force Reserve, including combat service during Operation Desert Storm.

“Michael has been a steady leader at the FAA during a time of significant change,” said NBAA president and CEO in a statement. "Under his stewardship, the agency has shown demonstrable progress in implementing NextGen, to ensure America’s continued global leadership in aviation; in rewriting Part 23 certification standards to ensure the safety and affordability of small aircraft; and laying the groundwork for the safe introduction of unmanned aircraft into the National Airspace System. These important priorities will be among the pillars of his legacy.”

Bolen also noted Huerta’s continuing focus on the FAA’s role in aviation safety. To illustrate his point, he highlighted the FAA’s Compliance Philosophy initiative, which encourages regulatory compliance through government-industry collaboration. For example, efforts to correct errors through collaboration, rather than focusing on investigations and enforcement actions, Bolen said, have resulted in tangible safety benefits for both general aviation and the airlines under Huerta’s tenure.

“The National Air Transportation Association congratulates Michael Huerta on the successful conclusion of his five-year term as Administrator of the FAA," said NATA President Martin H. Hiller in a statement released Monday. "Administrator Huerta has significantly advanced the cause of American aviation, overseeing the operation of the world’s most complex, yet safest, air traffic control system. The aviation business community is truly appreciative of his many achievements, including guiding us through one of the most challenging transitions in aviation history, the modernization of our air traffic control system — the result of which will usher in the ‘next great age’ for American aviation. A hallmark of this tenure was his commitment to building consensus around major decisions and willingness to always listen to the needs of the aviation business community, most recently demonstrated by his support of initiatives related to regulatory consistency and a compliance philosophy that emphasizes making the world’s safest system even safer.”

(Source: DOT news release. Image from file)

FMI: www.dot.gov, www.nbaa.org, www.nata.aero

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