Hiring An FAA Administrator Can Be Easy


Breaking news: To the shock of few, FAA administrator nominee, Phillip Washington, withdrew his name from consideration for an underpaid government job (about $140,000/year plus free pens), overseeing the most complicated aviation system in the Universe. Stepping in to the run the agency in an acting capacity is Billy Nolen, a pilot. Gutsy choice. Talk about “lunatics running the asylum” when pilots call the shots.

Two things about this interminable state of upper management flux: I know the FAA is not an “agency” and hasn’t been since April 1, 1967, but agency sounds cooler. Administration with an administrator evokes minimal awe outside administrative circles. I learned that in graduate school, working toward a Master of Public Administration degree, which I never achieved, because it bored me into becoming a novelist.

Perhaps Washington met the dullness factors that a good FAA administrator candidate should bring to the table, what with not being a pilot or logging much aviation experience beyond managing the Cinnabon at Denver International Airport, but the head of this powerful aviation entity (not EAA) should be cool and fun. That the temporary boss’s name is Billy is both. I’d gladly fly with a Billy or a Betty, provided they’re fun pilots. That said, Washington might not be a flyer, but he had long government service. An Army veteran, he retired as a command sergeant major, an enlisted rank so intimidating it turns 2nd lieutenants into quivering Jell-O, despite technically outranking him.

Admittedly, the person running the FAA has way more important duties than thinking about flight. I concede that this is not a flying job, but it should be with candidates screened accordingly. I suggest skipping the whole nomination and confirmation mugwump with all those posers in Washington, D.C., although you’d think a guy named Washington would’ve been a cinch for approval. In my fantasy world, where everything impossible is possible, any pilot could apply for the job, or nominate a fellow pilot, and only pilots would qualify.

Let’s say you wanted to be the next FAA-1. Click on this link. Typing in www is not disqualifying but shows an appreciation for redundancy in entrenched, outmoded ideals, an important trait in any bureaucrat. Once at the site, click the Application button, accept the cyber cookies and crackers while agreeing to all the legal stuff that no one reads or understands. Once the IACRA online application form appears, fill it in … or out, your choice. If necessary, lie about your medical and criminal past, and in the Are You Now or Have You Ever Been a Pilot box, select Yes. Student pilots are eligible, post-solo. You’ll be asked to create a cool sounding username and password, which you should write in that notebook in your flight bag where you keep all your other usernames and passwords. Anything with Top Gun in it—unless you really were a Top Gun (movie or real)—triggers automatic disqualification. Application completed, you’re in. Nomination accepted. Expect a text message informing you where to appear for an interview and practical exam. Don’t bother studying up on regs and such. That’s not what this selection process is about, and no one likes a know-it-all.

Prior to the beauty pageant, you’ll write an essay obfuscating why you should get the job. Make it overly long with heavy reliance on aero abbreviations such as SATNAV, TRACON, or FUBAR, and—most important—do not address the actual question. Just like in college. Knowing how to duck issues is vital in any administrative position but supremely so when defending FAA policy failures before televised Congressional overbite committee hearings. And be sure to repeat the key phrases, “As we go forward,” and “Safety is our number one priority.” Both are meaningless but impart immense solemnity.

Your essay and application will be processed, without being read, by the Application Processing Subcommittee, then filed as ammunition to be used against you in future dismissal hearings, when something goes wrong in the NAS, and a fall person is needed for political keelhauling.

That’s the paperwork, now the practical test, a working interview by thousands of your peers via a spot landing contest. Can you fly the things you’ll be charged with regulating? Applicants will be judged at Wittman Regional Airport, Oshkosh, WI (KOSH) and Antique Airfield, Blakesburg, IA (IA27) during their respective EAA and AAA (Antique Airplane Association) fly-ins. Judges are merciless and occasionally drunk. The winner will not necessarily be the pilot who can “aim for the orange dot and land on the green” or not bounce across the swale in Antique Airfield’s Runway 18.

Dorking up a landing is not disqualifying. In fact, it could put you into the semifinals, because all pilots know that it’s not the good landings that display an aviator’s mettle; no one sees those. Instead, it’s how a good pilot handles the inevitable barbs from all those who witness your one bad landing. Grace under failure in this selection process factors heavily in determining who will become the next sacrificial FAA Administrator.

Assuming many readers will now apply for the Administrator position, please include in the comments section what your Number-1 priority will be on Day-1 as FAA-1. Be bold and creative … a sure sign you’ll never get the gig.

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  1. Paul

    You forgot a critical part of the application process. You need to provide a You tube video of yourself explaining how you will leverage IT intersectionality to create a paradigm changing vision for the future of an inclusive earth friendly air travel experience.

    • Hmm! Does that mean that Paul Berge should include a video presentation similar to Bertorelli’s productions that outlines how to use technology and intersectional thinking, all while considering how different aspects of a person’s identity, such as race, gender, and sexuality, intersect to shape their experiences? 🤔🤔🤔

  2. FUBAR? You obviously understand what a screwed up mess government is. Maybe, if you could manage to stay awake, you should go back and finish that Masters in PA degree. That would make you a shoe-in for the job considering your ATC experience. A good sense of humor and the ability to tell a good story should qualify you for a job that is impossible to fulfill anyway. It is certainly true that being grilled in front of the clown show we refer to as Congress does nothing to indicate how qualified one may be to run an Agency (oops, Administration) mired in cold 100 weight oil. But seriously, you should give it a shot. After all, it is only temporary until the next President decides they need a new whipping boy (er, person) because you failed to foresee and prevent the latest NOTAMS screwup. BTW, my #1 priority would be the ability to fire anyone who fails to meet a deadline or proposes another idiot committee to study finding a replacement for 100LL. What would yours be?

  3. MY first priority would be to order NOTAM to mean ‘Notices to Airmen’ again and the front end of the aeroplane to be labeled, cockpit. I.E., Woke would end. Then, I’d order every FAA employee back to working IN their respective offices unless duties dictated working in the field. Enough of the covid nonsense already. Anyone refusing would be immediately terminated. Then, following John, ALL work would have realistic deadlines. Fail to meet one and you get dinged. So many dings and its good bye. Then, like Michael Huerta used to blather, the answer to everything is “Yes” or “Approved” unless it can be shown that “No” or “Disapproved” is absolutely necessary. In other words, produce something measurable or productive or move on. Maybe putting promulgation of aviation back into the FAA Mission Statement early on would be in order, too. This hiding behind “safety” as a trojan horse to slow everything down is baloney. Somewhere in there would be simplification of the certification of products, especially for GA airplanes. Getting rid of half the law staff would be a high priority, too. I could go on.

    • And just like that … right after I wrote the above, I read that EAA has negotiated something they’re calling “VARMA” — Vintage Aircraft Replacement and Modification Article. It’s a clarification of the process to use non-standard stuff in certificated airplanes weighing less than 12,500 lbs and built before Jan 1, 1980. It’s a FAA “Work Instruction” … something I’d never heard of before? It’s a way around parts no longer available for older airplanes. A step in the right direction; just like I outlined above. Proactivity … it’s a wonderful thing.


    • You wouldn’t get my vote Larry because like everyone else who has glammed onto the now overused and always was meaningless word “woke”, you major on the superfluous and ignore the important. Who gives a S#!# what the acronym NOTAMS officially means or whether it’s called a cockpit or a flight deck? We all know what those mean and call them what we prefer. Issues like realistic medical and aircraft certification reforms? Of course. Go for those.

      • “Who gives a S#!# what the acronym NOTAMS officially means or whether it’s called a cockpit or a flight deck?”
        I agree, so why did you comment this way if you don’t give a S#!#.
        It’s not just words, it a control method.

        • BINGO, Mac! My first “acts” would be a quick action to take shots over the ‘bow’ to get people’s attention. STOP taking meaningless actions and start producing … or else. That manufactures are using EASA to get around the certification log jam while worrying about crap like that is crimminal. Having to depend upon Senators to legislate medical reform while paying an Administrator is likewise nuts. And, the NOTAM system is near unusable yet the meaning of the word has been changed. John doesn’t “get” it. Simpler put … the Administrator’s job is to DO SOMETHING not sit in the ivory tower, give speeches and fly around on N1.

    • Amen to all of that, Larry. And contrary to the John’s comment, the asinine, “woke” changes to long-established terminology are symptoms of the deeper rot that has the FAA (really the whole, ponderous, stultifying, dysfunctional federal leviathan) focused on superficial nonsense to the exclusion of important issues, and is part of the same mindset that refuses to fix issues like medical and aircraft certification. “Notice to Air Missions,” especially when intoned by the ATIS robot, makes almost ever pilot’s blood boil.

  4. Thanks Paul. Now that you have given the link where anyone and everyone can register their interest in the job, let’s hope the FAA gets swamped with applications. They won’t read any of them because nowhere on the form is there a place for applicants to register their behind-the-screens political connectedness.

    I don’t understand the current push for AI. The I in DC has been A for a long, long time.

  5. So wait a minute………so now that this TOOL has pulled his application for the FAA position it is now considered to be an underpaid government job (about $140,000.? They are not taking into account all the government kick backs, insider stock trading options and the use of any and all private jets for personal business.

  6. I for one think a little knowledge about Pt.61, 91,135 and 121 would be a great benefit. Also, what about this AVGAS fiasco going on for ten years or so? Does he even know what a Pt.145 repair station is? An administrator should know something about the airspace system in the US. A couple of examples; that Janis Yellin running the Treasury Department and Pete Buddigig running the Transportation Department. How is that working out?

  7. Washington is and was a trash candidate. Did you like him, Paul Berge? All the snark from you as a response to what is clearly a positive outcome seems to imply as much. Pretty much anyone else who isn’t under investigation for corruption is probably a better choice than Washington.