President Joe Biden on Wednesday nominated Phil Washington, the head of Denver International Airport, to lead the Federal Aviation Administration.
Washington’s nomination to run the agency, which has roughly 45,000 employees, comes after Steve Dickson left the post about halfway through his term, at the end of March, citing personal reasons. Billy Nolen, the FAA’s safety chief, was named as acting administrator.
If confirmed, Washington will head an agency that has been working to improve its reputation after two fatal crashes of Boeing‘s 737 Max planes, which led to legislation that tightened federal oversight of new planes.
The FAA is also tasked with reviewing new Boeing jets like the 777X and the largest model of the Max, the 737 Max 10, and hasn’t yet signed off on Boeing’s Dreamliner planes to resume deliveries.
The FAA has also been working with airlines to bring down the rate of flight delays and cancellations amid staffing shortages and other challenges. The FAA and airline executives have blamed each other over an uptick in flight disruptions that has upended travel planes of thousands of passengers.
Airline executives have called out staffing of air traffic controllers, which the FAA oversees, as causes for delays.
“The reality is that there are more flights scheduled industrywide than ATC staffing system can handle,” United Airlines Chief Operating Officer Jonathan Roitman wrote in a staff note Wednesday, calling out congested parts of New York and Florida. “Until that is resolved, we expect the U.S. aviation system will be challenged this summer and beyond.”
Washington has headed the Denver airport, one of the country’s busiest, for about a year and previously served as CEO of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority for six years.