Phil Washington, the current chief executive officer (CEO) of Denver International Airport (DEN) in the United States, decided to exit from a nomination campaign for the role of permanent administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
President Joe Biden’s nominee to lead the FAA withdrew his nomination due to criticism and lack of support in the Senate Commerce Committee, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg explained on March 26, 2023.
“The FAA needs a confirmed Administrator, and Phil Washington’s transportation and military experience made him an excellent nominee,” Buttigieg wrote on Twitter. “The partisan attacks and procedural obstruction he has faced are undeserved, but I respect his decision to withdraw and am grateful for his service.”
Even though Washington was supported by other former FAA administrators as well as major aviation unions in the US, the nominee has faced severe criticism by the Republican Party recently. According to an Associated Press report, Republicans opposed Washington’s nomination calling him unqualified to head the FAA because of his limited experience in the aviation industry.
The Senate Commerce Committee was supposed to vote on Biden’s nominee on March 22, 2023. However, the hearing was postponed to an unspecified date “pending information that members have been seeking”, the Committee chair Maria Cantwell told Reuters.
Washington has held the position of CEO of DEN airport since June 2021, when he took over the position from the former airport head, Kim Day. He was first nominated to serve as FAA administrator in July 2022, but the proposal was not approved by the country’s Senate at the time.
On January 3, 2023, President Biden nominated dozens of other candidates to key national security, judicial, and administrative posts, including the position of leading the country’s aviation regulator.
The FAA has been operating without a permanent administrator for around eight months since March 2022, when Steve Dickson, the former senior vice president of flight operations at Delta Air Lines and then-head of FAA, resigned.
Dickson took on the role of FAA administrator for a five-year term in August 2019. However, in a letter to FAA employees dated February 17, 2022, Dickson said that he would be resigning from the post for family reasons.
Since then, Billy Nolen, the FAA’s top aviation safety official, has been in charge of the regulator on an interim basis.