Report Says Biden Set To Nominate Mike Whitaker As FAA Administrator


Former FAA Deputy Administrator Mike Whitaker is expected to be nominated by President Joe Biden to become the agency’s next administrator. The Wall Street Journal said sources told it the announcement will likely come this week but talks have not been finalized. Whitaker was second-in-command under Administrator Michael Huerta from 2013 to 2016 and focused on modernization of the air traffic system. Whitaker is a lawyer but he reportedly obtained his private pilot certificate while working for the FAA. (We checked the registry but it was down for maintenance late Sunday.)

He is currently the COO of Supernal, the Hyundai subsidiary working on eVTOLs. His job at Supernal is to ensure the aircraft fit into the regulatory regimes of the countries where they will operate. Before joining the FAA, he worked in a similar role for United Airlines. His name first came up in May as Biden’s pick to replace Phil Washington, the CEO of Denver International Airport, as the FAA nominee but Washington withdrew in the face of stiff opposition from Senate Republicans. Deputy Transportation Secretary Polly Trottenberg is now filling the role of FAA administrator until a new nominee is confirmed.

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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  1. Mike Whittaker did get his private pilot’s certificate in 2014 at Freeway Airport, just outside Washington DC. I was flying out of Freeway at the time.

  2. Pilot and Atty Mike Whittaker has a good amount of experience and knowledge in aviation, including legal affairs for TWA, and United Airlines, FAA Deputy Administrator, and eVTOL technologies. Good background. He’ll do!

  3. The fact that he took the time to learn to fly is a good thing. Being second in command to (career bureaucrat) Mr Huerta is not. I guess I will have to hold any judgement for now, until the Senate confirmation hearings. Anyone hear anything on his position about user fees since he was working on “modernizing” ATC?

    • Not sure why this guy gets a thumbs up – I mean the previous choice of the KDEN airport manager was a clear miss, but someone who’s experience, according to LinkedIn, doesn’t seem to be anything other than corporate law, and who has never led an organization, seems like another miss for someone to address the Agency’s needs.
      His CV show’s he was a lawyer for International and Regulatory Affairs for TWA and then United and then moved to be the head of regulatory lawyers for United
      He then got a job called “Deputy Administrator and Chief NextGen Officer” at FAA for 3 yrs., but what were his results there? Google “NextGen_Implementation_Plan” for 2013 when he got there, and then find the same doc for 2017 after he left for how they had to re-plan in his wake, and see how much his timelines slid. Not saying it was all his fault, we all miss deadlines, but I am not trying to use my lack of project performance to claim I can lead an agency.
      And now he’s leveraged his time in government “service” to find a seat at the table as a paid placement for a vaporware eVTOL . You can look for yourself about how far they’ve gotten on regulatory approval, which is what he is responsible for. (Look up all the experimental airworthy certificates issued to Supernal and tell me what you see)

      He got a private license 10 years ago while at the FAA (maybe someone suggested he do it seem more qualified in the field) – good for him, but that was the end of it, his medical is expired, no BasicMed, so he is evidently not an active pilot.

      So yeah, compared to the last nominee, the guy’s a gold mine, but objectively, it’s hard to see why he should lead the Agency.

      • Squared !! Working with Michael Huerta is a BIG negative for me!!

        I think he’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

        But — hey — he’ll be able to say, “Ex Parte” easily 🙁

  4. There is clearly no worthy candidate for this community. You don’t need 50 years of aviation experience to run this Agency. You need to be a LEADER with a good general understanding of the Agency and public needs. You also need to have good people in the head positions below to assist you in making informed decisions.

    • Would you agree that reviewing the public record of someone’s prior performance at the same agency is not the same as simply throwing up your hands and saying that “there is clearly no worthy candidate”?

      If being a LEADER our primary criteria, we can see Mr. Whitaker’s demonstrated track record of his ability to lead at the FAA. He was there Jun 2013- Jun 2016 and he was given one thing to do, which was to get NextGen on track. The public record is very transparent on exactly how effective his leadership of FAA progress NextGen during the three years that he was in charge of it.

      There is tons of testimony in the Congressional Record with him trying to answer Senators’ and Congressperson’s questions on delays if you want to spend the time, but if you need a concise, objective, performance-based record of his performance, simply read the Department of Transportation Office of the Inspector General’s audit reports of his time there.

      I invite you to review:

      DOT OIG Audit Report Number: AV2014027 Title: “FAA Made Limited Progress in Implementing NextGen Provisions of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012”

      DOT OIG Audit Report Number: AV2014031 Title: “Addressing Underlying Causes for NextGen Delays Will Require Sustained FAA Leadership and Action”

      DOT OIG Audit Report Number: AV2015012 Title: “Planning for High-Priority NextGen Capabilities Underway, But Much Work Remains for Full Realization of Benefits”

      DOT OIG Audit Report Number: AV2016094 Title: “FAA Lacks a Clear Process for Identifying and Coordinating NextGen Long-Term Research and Development”

      DOT OIG Audit Report Number: AV2017009 “Total Costs, Schedules, and Benefits of FAA’s NextGen Transformational Programs Remain Uncertain”

      and then use that information to tell me if you would say he has a shown the ability to lead the FAA. There’s a lot of info in there, and it’s clear there’s a lot of institutional issues that he inherited in a project that was already had major issues and was 10+ years old before he got there, so it’s not all his fault.

      But the sole reason he was brought in to the FAA was because the program was off the rails, and he was tasked with leading it back on track. I think the record is clear on how successful his leadership actually was in doing that. And I think it’s 100% fair to extrapolate his past performance on managing the $1B / year NextGen project with how well he’d do running the entire agency.
      If you think he has demonstrated leadership that I’m missing, I’d be curious to know what you see that I’ve overlooked

      • Carl, I agree with your comment, but… The FAA began working on NextGen in the summer of 2000 and had a plan to complete the final phase by 2030. They divided the project into five-year segments called Alpha (2010–2015), Bravo (2016–2020), Charlie (2021–2025), and Delta (2026–2030). During 2013 to 2014, Mike Whitaker, as the FAA’s Deputy Administrator, played a role in developing and implementing the program. It is claimed that Whitaker led and supported NextGen initiatives by working together with different aviation stakeholders, including government agencies, airlines, and industry partners, to advance the use of NextGen technologies and procedures.

        While Whitaker’s leadership and contributions may have influenced the direction of NextGen and gained support from the industry for its implementation, it’s important to note that his role was most likely in promoting the program. In my opinion, it is fair to say that Whitaker’s work would not have had a significant impact on the current state of this super extensive and complex system. On a positive note, he is a lawyer, pilot, knows the industry, and as prior FAA employee, he has relevant experience.