Who Will Be the Next FAA Administrator?

A day after announcing his leave of absence from the FAA, FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt resigned on Tuesday of this week.  He is facing DWI charges in Virginia.

This is a critical time for the FAA.  This year the Press has finally started to take notice of the fact that the Agency ‘s strategic projects budget has been subject to four years of continuing resolutions.  This notice and the resulting pressure have actually made it possible that Congress might (someday) establish a longer-term strategic budget that would allow the FAA to implement some its important plans, like transitioning to a true NextGen infrastructure.

Without an Administrator, there is no Chief Executive to work with Congress on securing appropriate funding and there is no Chief Executive providing true strategic guidance to the Agency as a whole.

This is a tough time to secure a new Administrator.  With less than a year before Presidential elections, many potential FAA Administrators might be worried about the impending change in Administration.  The five year term for Administrators was supposed to insulate them from party politics but Washington, DC remains Washington, DC.

One candidate who might receive another look is Captain Duane Woerth, a former ALPA President.  Woerth was considered for the FAA Administrator position at a time when the White House was looking to throw a bone to organized labor.  They ultimately chose Randy Babbitt, who had labor ties but was considered to be better able to work with all of the FAA’s constituencies.  Woerth was ultimately appointed to be the US Ambassador to ICAO.  His labor ties and international experience would make him an qualified albeit controversial choice.

Another potential candidate is retired House Transportation Chairman James Oberstar.  Before chairing the full committee, Chairman Oberstar chaired the Aviation Subcommittee.  He was a long-time champion for the aviation industry and could do a good job representing the Agency on the Hill in its quest for a long-term strategic plan in the form of a multi-year authorization.

Retired AMR chief executive Gerard Arpey could be an interesting choice for the position.  Having just left American Airlines, he is available (he immediately joined a consulting organization after his exodus) and certainly has experience in leading large organizations (the factors that drove American to bankruptcy could not reasonably be blamed on his leadership).  But he has no real experience in working within government, and an understanding of the FAA would be critical to anyone who hopes to successfully lead the FAA.


About Jason Dickstein
Mr. Dickstein is the President of the Washington Aviation Group, a Washington, DC-based aviation law firm. He represents several aviation trade associations, including the Aviation Suppliers Association, the Aircraft Electronics Association, the Air Carrier Purchasing Conference, and the Modification and Replacement Parts Association. He also represents private clients drawn from the spectrum of the aviation industry.

2 Responses to Who Will Be the Next FAA Administrator?

  1. Pingback: Randy Babbitt Lands at Southwest « ASA Web Log

  2. Pingback: FAA Administrator Huerta’s Nomination is Confirmed « ASA Web Log

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