The FAA has lacked a Senate-confirmed administrator since March 2022. The agency is trying to reassure Americans that air travel is safe despite a surge in close calls between planes this year. It is also struggling with aging technology that failed in January, briefly canceling all takeoffs around the country. And it is still trying to repair its reputation after approving Boeing planes that crashed in 2018 and 2019.
“The FAA needs a confirmed Administrator, and Phil Washington’s transportation & military experience made him an excellent nominee,” Buttigieg tweeted Saturday night. “The partisan attacks and procedural obstruction he has faced are undeserved, but I respect his decision to withdraw and am grateful for his service.”
Washington ran transit agencies in Denver and Los Angeles, but his only aviation-related experience is serving as CEO of the Denver airport for less than two years. He has strong ties to the administration, however — he led Biden’s 2020 transition team for the Transportation Department, which includes the FAA.
Biden nominated Washington last July, but he didn’t get a committee hearing for eight months. Republicans attacked his resume and seized on disclosures that his name appeared in search warrants related to a corruption investigation in Los Angeles. Washington said he did nothing wrong and had not been contacted by law enforcement.
The agency is being led by an acting administrator, Billy Nolen, a pilot who has held safety jobs at three airlines and the FAA. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who led opposition to Washington, said Nolen could win bipartisan support.
In a statement Saturday night, Cruz said Washington’s lack of necessary experience was obvious.
“Given the significant challenges facing the FAA, this wasn’t the time for an administrator who needed on-the-job training,” he said. “The Biden administration must now quickly name someone to head the FAA who has an extensive aviation background, can earn widespread bipartisan support in the Senate, and will keep the flying public safe.”
Koenig reported from Dallas. Associated Press writer Mary Clare Jalonick in Washington contributed to this report.
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