We Have an FAA Administrator!

For the first time since March 2022, we have Senate-confirmed FAA Administrator. On October 24, the U.S. Senate voted 98-0 to Confirm Mike Whittaker as the next FAA Administrator. He will serve a five-year term.

In response to Whittaker’s confirmation, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg released the following statement:

“I commend the U.S. Senate for quickly confirming Mike Whitaker to lead the FAA. With his three decades of aviation experience, including his time as FAA’s Deputy Administrator, Mike has earned broad bipartisan support because it’s clear he has the expertise and disposition to successfully lead the agency from day one. 

“Mike will take the reins at a pivotal time for the FAA. The national airspace is busier and more complex than ever and the challenges are many, from addressing serious close call incidents that have put the entire aviation community on notice, to the need to keep up the FAA’s momentum on air traffic control hiring and training, to continuing to be creative and collaborative with airlines to keep cancellations low after the spike in disruptions last summer. Mike is also well-versed on the critical need to modernize the key systems our national aviation system rely on. As with all infrastructure, inadequate investments in modernization—from buildings to software--can leave the entire system more vulnerable to failures, so we must work closely with Congress to ensure the FAA remains the gold standard of safety and efficiency. 

“Finally I want to thank Deputy Secretary Trottenberg for superbly leading the FAA over the past five months in an acting capacity and moving the agency forward on safety and funding initiatives. She is an indispensable leader in this administration, and I look forward to having her fully back at DOT Headquarters to help guide our work across the Department.” 

Now, FAA reauthorization is the next priority for the aviation industry. FAA authorization is a five-year funding bill that sets forth funding and typically also provides priorities for the FAA. The last FAA authorization (which was signed into law on October 5, 2018) included legislative priorities to increase the safety and pace of UAS integration, expedite the financing and development of airport capital projects, directed the FAA to advance leadership in the field of international supersonic aircraft policies, addressed aircraft noise, and ensured safe lithium battery transport. That FAA authorization was set to expire on October 1. On September 30, as part of a continuing resolution to fund the federal government for 45 days to avoid a government shutdown, a three-month extension for FAA funding was approved. That extension will expire on December 31. 

In response to the extension, House Chairman of the Transportation & Infrastructure committee Sam Graves and House Ranking Member Larsen issued the following statement: “Reauthorizing the FAA is vital to ensuring the safe and efficient operation of America’s aviation system. Though the House overwhelmingly passed a bill in July to reauthorize the FAA for five years, the Senate needs additional time to consider and reach final agreement on a multi-year FAA bill, thus, passing a short-term extension in order to ensure all FAA programs continue to function while negotiations continue is necessary. But make no mistake, enacting a long-term bill as soon as possible is a top priority, as a series of short-term extensions will be detrimental to the FAA, airport infrastructure improvements, and the aviation industry.”

Lets hope that our elected officials are able to come together to pass an FAA authorization before the December 31 deadline!

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