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Fri, Sep 08, 2023

Michael Whitaker Nominated for FAA Administrator Position

Meet the New Boss …

More than 17-months after the resignations of the FAA’s last permanent Administrator, the Washington D.C. bureaucracy appears to have identified a suitable, ostensibly qualified candidate for the job.

Both the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) and the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) issued 07 September 2023 statements lauding the Biden administration’s nomination of Michael Whitaker to serve as the next permanent administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration.

Whitaker, an attorney, longtime aviation industry professional, and private pilot, served as deputy FAA administrator from 2013-2016—a role in which he headed-up the agency’s air traffic modernization efforts under the supplemental title Chief NextGen Officer. While no doubt ornamenting Whitaker’s CV, the air traffic modernization initiative has failed spectacularly of late to live up to its appellation.

Since 2020, Whitaker has toiled in the service of Supernal, the Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) subsidiary of South Korean automotive giant Hyundai Motor Company. Currently, Whitaker serves the company in the capacity of chief operating officer.

Speaking to the subject of Whitaker’s nomination, NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen stated: “Mike Whitaker has long been an outspoken aviation safety advocate and champion of innovation in the industry, who demonstrated during his time as Deputy Administrator at the FAA that he is a proven leader who delivers results. We [the NBAA] enthusiastically support his confirmation as FAA administrator.”

Whitaker has served major U.S. airlines in a number of prominent roles, to include assistant general counsel for TWA, and a 15-year stint with United Airlines, during which he functioned as the Chicago-based air-carrier’s senior vice-president of alliances, international, and regulatory affairs. After leaving United, Whitaker was named Group CEO of InterGlobe Enterprises, the holding company for IndiGo, India’s largest airline.

While FAA deputy administrator, Whitaker stood up the agency’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration Office, the first FAA organization dedicated to UAS operations in the National Airspace System.

ALPA president Captain Jason Ambrosi set forth on behalf of the pilot labor union:

ALPA applauds the nomination of Michael Whitaker to lead the safest and most complex aviation system in the world. Michael understands that the most important safety feature on any aircraft is two, highly-trained and well-rested pilots, and the paramount need to protect current pilot safety training regulations.

“This nomination comes at a particularly critical time for the FAA. In order to maintain the world’s safest air transportation system, modernize outdated infrastructure, and keep passengers and crews safe, we need permanent, stable leadership that is safety-focused, and we look forward to his swift approval by the United States Senate.”

If approved Michael Whitaker will succeed Stephen Dickson, the FAA’s last permanent administrator, who stepped down in March 2022; and interim administrators Billy Nolen and Polly Trottenberg, who sustained the agency—more or less—over a 17-month absence of long-term leadership. That Whitaker is qualified to lead what ALPA boss Ambrosi rightfully called “ … [the] most complex aviation system in the world” is likely. 

FMI: www.faa.gov

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