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Mon, Apr 24, 2023

Billy Nolen to Step Down from Top FAA Position

What Horrors May Come

On Friday, 21 April 2023, Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen announced in an intra-agency memo that he intends to leave his post within a period of time measurable in months.

Mr. Nolen wrote: “I have given everything to this agency, and now it’s time to do the same for my family, who have sacrificed so much and supported me during my time at the FAA.”

Nolen’s departure will exacerbate the paucity of stable leadership by which the FAA has been afflicted for over a year. Currently, a number of the agency’s key offices are occupied by officials working in acting capacities. What’s more, the FAA neither has nor is developing a leadership succession protocol. Deputy FAA Administrator Bradley Mims, for example, has been with the agency longer than Mr. Nolen. Nevertheless, the Biden White House named Nolen Acting FAA Administrator.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a senior administration official stated Nolen—notwithstanding the confirmation of a successor or enduring want thereof—is expected to leave the FAA this summer.

Controversial Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg set forth in a statement: “Billy is a tremendous leader, a true expert and a dedicated public servant. I can speak for everyone at DOT in saying that his skill and expertise are a great asset to the department, and will continue to be as FAA prepares for its upcoming leadership transition.”

The unnamed administration official further stated Buttigieg, in the wake of Phil Washington’s withdrawal from contention for the FAA Administrator position, prevailed upon Nolen to remain at the agency. Nolen reportedly refused, however, advising Buttigieg and the Biden White House he had no interest in staying on as Administrator—acting or otherwise.

The anonymous official confided that the White House had been slow to engage with Nolen following Washington’s withdrawal, and suggested, also, that the naming of a new nominee for the permanent FAA Administrator position was unlikely in the short-term.

Billy Nolen is a former U.S. Army fixed-wing aircraft and helicopter pilot. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in professional aeronautics from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and specialized aviation safety management certificates from the University of Southern California, U.S. Army Safety Center, and the U.S. Navy Postgraduate School.

His military flying days behind him, Mr. Nolen joined American Airlines in 1989. Over the following 26-years, he served the air-carrier in both line-pilot and safety program manager capacities. Mr. Nolen holds type ratings in Boeing’s 757/767 and McDonnell Douglas’s MD-80.

In 2015, Nolen took a position with Airlines for America (A4A), serving as the organization’s senior vice-president of safety, security, and operations until 2018, when he joined Qantas Group as executive manager for group safety and health. Nolen left Qantas in February 2020 and journeyed to Calgary, where he joined WestJet, serving as the air-carrier’s vice-president of safety, security, and quality. In December 2021, Mr. Nolen threw-in with the FAA, taking over as the agency’s associate administrator for aviation safety on 01 January 2022.

On 16 February 2022, then FAA Administrator Stephen Dickson announced he would resign from the post effective 31 March. On 26 March, the FAA announced Nolen had been named the agency’s Acting Administrator pending the Biden administration’s nomination of a permanent successor to the office.

On 15 March 2023, following a protracted string of domestic aviation safety incidents—several of which involved runway incursions and emergent traffic conflicts at major U.S. airports—Mr. Nolen convened a summit for purpose of identifying means by which to enhance the safety of flight within the U.S. National Airspace System. The event was attended by upwards of two-hundred safety leaders representing aviation industry sectors such as Part 121 commercial airlines, Part 135 air-carriers, aircraft and aero-engine OEMs, trade groups, avionics and technology concerns, air traffic controllers, and key FAA personnel.

Mr. Nolen’s departure from the FAA is unfortunate but understandable in light of the ongoing turmoil that this section of the government has generated.

Aero-News Network joins the aviation and aerospace communities in thanking Mr. Nolen for his dedication and outstanding service to flight, and bidding him a heartfelt farewell and a hearty bonne chance.



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