President Donald Trump will nominate former airline pilot Steve Dickson to be administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, a move that comes amid a major crisis for the agency following the fatal crashes of two Boeing 737 MAX passenger jets in Indonesia and Ethiopia, the White House said today.
Dickson would replace acting Administrator Dan Elwell, who has held the top spot for more than a year since the departure of Obama administration appointee Michael Huerta. It was not immediately clear if Elwell will remain in his job as deputy administrator; a spokesperson said his focus is “on the task at hand with the Boeing 737 MAX issue and leading the agency during the confirmation process.”
Story Continued Below
Dickson spent most of his airline career at Delta Air Lines — one of the few major U.S. carriers that does not fly planes from the 737 MAX line.
Once confirmed, he will inherit an agency that finds itself in the middle of congressional scrutiny from both chambers, an audit by the Transportation Department’s inspector general into the way the 737 MAX was certified as safe to fly, along with a reported Justice Department criminal probe into the matter.
The long wait for a permanent chief at the agency came amid multiple reports that Trump’s favorite choice for the job would have been John Dunkin, his long-time personal pilot at the Trump Organization, who has also served as a sounding board for the president on aviation issues, including the FAA’s handling of a delayed, multibillion-dollar upgrade of its air traffic control system. Trump has also said it would be “helpful” if the administrator of the FAA were a pilot.
But key congressional Republicans expressed skepticismabout Dunkin’s ability to make it smoothly through the Senate confirmation process.
Dickson recently retired from Delta, where he was senior vice president of flight operations. Before he was at Delta, Dickson was an Air Force officer. He has experience as both a military and Delta pilot.
Ed Bolen, head of the National Business Aviation Association, praised the choice and said DIckson has a “comprehensive understanding of our national air transportation system,” and is steeped in knowledge when it comes to the ongoing effort to transition to satellite-based air traffic control.