Trottenberg Named Acting FAA Administrator


As expected, longtime senior bureaucrat Polly Trottenberg has been appointed Acting Administrator of the FAA. The announcement was made Thursday and confirmed earlier reports of the appointment. Trottenberg was the Deputy Secretary of Transportation. The White House also appointed the FAA’s current Chief of Staff, Katie Thomson, as Trottenberg’s Deputy Administrator. Current Deputy Administrator Bradley Mims is moving from the FAA to the Department of Transportation where he will lead the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization. The announcement was made as former Acting Administrator Billy Nolen was cleaning out his desk, reportedly to take a job at eVTOL developer Archer Aviation.

“I am pleased to announce a team of experienced leaders to guide the FAA,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “I am grateful to Billy for his service during one of the most challenging and dynamic times in aviation, and I have full confidence in Polly’s steady hand during the search for a permanent administrator.” The appointments come after a 16-month leadership vacuum at the FAA after the last Senate-confirmed Administrator Steve Dickson quit in March of 2022.

There is still no word on the selection of a new permanent appointee since the previous appointee Phil Washington withdrew his nomination in April after a rough ride in the Senate confirmation hearings. The leadership announcement comes as Congress is preparing a new FAA reauthorization bill to replace the current legislation that expires in September, and the decades of experience by both women in government is viewed as a plus by the National Air Transportation Association. “Trottenberg and Thomson’s years of experience at the DOT will provide stability as the spotlight continues to shine on aviation in the coming months.”

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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      • Yep, it seems like the government’s decision to appoint Trottenberg as Acting Administrator is a bit of a head-scratcher. The government head-hunters must have missed the memo on listening to the concerns and opinions of the aviation community. 🤔

  1. That last quote in this article is similar to what was said when Mr Huerta was appointed FAA administrator and look how that worked out. Now we have two clueless about aviation, career government bureaucrats running aviation safety agencies (FAA and NTSB). What could go wrong?

  2. Russ–inartful word choice. “CONFIRMED” is a technical word connoting that the Senate has consented to the “nomination”. Polly is only acting AOA-1 That term can refer to both “fill-in” and “dramatic”. Her time in this office will be a bad play so “drama” is more apt.

  3. How does a person not qualified to fly an aircraft end up running the FAA? I know there will be those that say you don’t need to be a pilot to administer the FAA, like not being a licensed truck driver to run a trucking company. It seems it would be a lot easier if you know simple things like how a wing works. At least a person running a trucking company knows how a truck works. Just saying…….

  4. The immediate issue is you can’t just appoint anyone.

    “ Under the Vacancies Act, acting officials generally may come from three categories of government officials: (1) first assistants to the vacant positions; (2) Senate-confirmed officials designated by the President; and (3) certain senior agency officials designated by the President.”

    “ Under the Vacancies Act, for instance, certain actions taken by an acting official not serving under its terms “shall have no force or effect” and may be susceptible to legal challenge.”

  5. Only two and a bit years to the election when FAA boss will probably be one of the presidential presents, like ambassadors.
    Most ambassadors have never worked in foreign affairs, so the similarity is there.

  6. This may provide some evidence for why we are mired in such a governmental mess. Politicians in power appoint people to positions for which they are unqualified simply for optics.

    Gone are the days in which the most qualified were selected based on performance. We are sliding into the abyss at an exponential rate based on diversity, equity, and whatever.

    I’m old and perhaps it won’t affect me, but I weep for my children and grandchildren.

  7. This is what you get when “authorities” adhere inflexibly to the myth of spiral dynamics; perceiving themselves at that uppermost spiral concerned with the administration of an activity rather than the activity itself. It’s amazing how many people have been conditioned to accept regulation by nonparticipants.

  8. I turned down advancement opportunities presented to me throughout my aviation career when the people who would be calling the shots were not credible due to lacking training, experience and credentials in the field of operation.

    To be regulated by one of them is chafing. I’ll be communicating with my congressman and anyone else who will listen to at least make an effort toward a better solution when the next office holder is confirmed.

  9. This “Appointee” has as much experience in aviation as Hunter Biden in the energy sector. And we wonder WHY we are in the position we are in.

  10. That’s what we have in the FSDO’s and other offices, inexperienced and worthless inspectors for the most part, so why would we want someone at the top to be experienced? There are some that are from the industry but they are few and far between.

  11. In private industry, even among the smallest companies, one draws up a list of minimum qualifications and experience as an initial filter for vetting potential candidates. Is our dysfunctional government incapable of even this most basic management practice? Clearly, when the appointee has no practical aviation experience, either commercial or GA, the appointment to lead the FAA serves some unrelated interest and we the people get get screwed, again. The incompetence is metastasizing, stage 4.

  12. Surprised? Can anyone name anything this inept administration has done that hasn’t been a colossal failure?

  13. Just what we don’t need, another politico. Unfortunately our DOT secretary is plain out of touch.

    I suppose if Billy Nolen had been offered the full administrators position, he would’ve stayed. But, who can blame the guy for leaving; it’s just so long a guy can be ‘acting’.

    Unfortunately Steve Dickson chose to leave before his term was up. (Though considering the skeletons in his closet from some of the things he did at DL were eventually going to catch up to him). At least he was an aviator, and an able administrator.

    Right now, with ongoing aircraft certification issues, 5G radar altimeter interference and a NOTAM system that is a joke, we need someone in the position that understands aviation. While Ms Trottenburg may be an able bureaucrat, she will be dependent on input from sources that at more politically motivated than operationally.

    Hoping our President actually proposes a real administrator, not a political hack next time

    • First, the FAA Administrator is a political appointee thus will always be politically bias. For all those who want some square jawed military top gun, fly tail draggers at 3 and 747s at 30 type administrator that somehow understands both the needs of the private pilot and the needs of Boeing…get real.

      Regarding this line “and a NOTAM system that is a joke”, what does a pilot, even Capt America now about complex computer systems, data integration, and software archetecture design and development. Seems you want a IT guy as head of FAA to fix that one…or maybe someone who can get the right talent to begin analysis.

      Then there is this “5G radar altimeter interference”…So now our FAA administrator, already able to dead stick a shuttle to a short field landing is also an Electrical Engineer, because given the logic on this page, they need to be an expert in RADAR and broadband wave concurrences and how that propagates to electronic devices….or maybe that person has the ability to put the right scientists, engineers, and pilots to come up with solid tests and answers.

      Finally, ” aircraft certification issues”….Well that ain’t a overly generic statement, but let’s figure it is in regards to the time it takes to get certification or perhaps the rules and regulations that apply to getting a certification. Should we go back to having corporations and individuals “sign off” on certifications (aka Boeing) and just shrug when planes fall out of the sky? Maybe the FAA Administrator has to to have good administrative skills to unravel why there are delays and again find knowledgeable people to perform regulation reviews that include public comment.

      I know nothing about this lady, but as always seems to be there case when these articles appear, the knee jerk reaction is to say “she didn’t do stick time so she’s a hack” before she even starts the job. If y’all think you know who is best for the position tell your damn political representative to pass it along. Maybe if the senate stops F’ing around with nominees for their own political gains and does their job of *advise and consent* and gives names that are the best, maybe the President can work with that list.

  14. Damn straight, Justin! It’s simply amazing how many commenters on this forum conflate the activity with the management of that activity. They seem to think that the head of a federal agency should have the skills that the agency regulates. Who do I want to run such a bureaucracy? A well-seasoned, thick-skinned, knife-fighting, bureaucrat is my choice. If s/he has years of experience keeping gears grinding in the government trenches, as Trottenberg does, all the better. An analytic mind, ability to wrangle competing interests, and loyalty to her staff and boss are far more valuable traits than any aviation skill, aside from making decisions under pressure.

  15. Well, I was close in my May 2023 ‘guestimate’ posted here that Pete Buttigieg might be plopped in-
    This appointment is as close to THAT as it gets.
    Unleaded fuel initiatives ? Do I hear 2040 ?

  16. Ms. Trottenberg served under Mayor Bill de Blasio as New York City’s transportation commissioner from 2014 to 2020. In that role, she oversaw the city’s Vision Zero program to reduce traffic fatalities, and she expanded bike and bus lanes.

    She was also a top transportation official in the Obama administration, serving as an assistant secretary at the Transportation Department and then as the departments undersecretary for policy review.

  17. I think aircraft carrier Captains still have to be Naval Aviators, unless that went away too…🙄

  18. Do you think that might have something to do with the necessary separation of the civilian FAA from the military DOD? As in, totally separate mission, mandate, risks, employee pool, public interface, budget, accountability, etc., etc., etc. You could have made a more cogent argument by asserting that Broadway choreographers are, or were, dancers.

  19. § 106. Federal Aviation Administration
    (c) The Administrator must—
    (3) have experience in a field directly related
    to aviation.