With more than a year and a half since there was a Senate-confirmed head of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), it looks like the streak is about to end. Today, the uniquely bipartisan U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation unanimously agreed that Michael Whitaker is the right person for the job. The rare consensus means that full Senate approval is likely.
Words of praise for Whitaker came from both sides of the aisle. Even though Whitaker served under the Democratic Obama Administration as Deputy FAA Administrator under Administrator Michael Huerta, Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, lauded Whitaker’s “extensive aviation experience.”
At a confirmation hearing earlier this month, Whitaker, who holds private pilot and BasicMed certificates, voiced his opinion that bringing quality candidates into the FAA and the aviation industry, overall, will be a top priority. He said, “I would view my role as administrator, as chief recruitment officer, certainly for FAA, but also for the industry.”
But a high-profile string of “close calls” in the preceding months—despite an exemplary safety record, overall—have placed aviation safety front-and-center in the public’s attention. “If confirmed,” Whitaker said, “my priority will be the safety of the flying public. They have put their trust in the FAA to keep aviation the safest way to travel. And the world has looked to us for decades as the gold standard.”