President Joe Biden has nominated Phil Washington to lead the Federal Aviation Administration amid a chaotic summer for the travel industry.
Washington has served as the CEO of the Denver International Airport for the past year. Prior to 2021, Washington was in charge of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Denver’s Regional Transportation District. The Chicago native also served in the Army for 24 years and was awarded the Defense Superior Service Medal for exceptional service.
“Washington has a limited resume in aviation… He has been closely tied to a plan to improve the [Denver] airport for growth expected over the next 10 years, and called for building two new runways in addition to one under construction,” notes The Seattle Times.
In his July 6 announcement, Biden noted Washington’s experience managing multimillion-dollar budgets and overseeing fleets of thousands of vehicles.
The FAA has an estimated 45,000 employees. It is being led by acting administrator Bill Nolen, who took over when Steve Dickson resigned in February halfway through his five-year term.
In an email to employees announcing his departure, Dickson cited a desire to spend more time with his family. He had been nominated by President Donald Trump in 2019.
“Although my heart is heavy, I am tremendously proud of everything we have accomplished together over the past several years,” he said, per CBS News. “The agency is in a better place than it was two years ago, and we are positioned for great success. It has been the privilege of a lifetime to serve alongside you.”
The agency is currently reviewing a number of Boeing jets inducing the 777X and the largest model of the Max, the 737 Max 10 and 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,” per CNBC. The FAA has still not approved “Boeing’s Dreamliner planes to resume deliveries.”
If approved for the position, Washington will take over the agency amid a season of cancellations and disruptions for the travel industry.
Understaffing at airports, pilot shortages, and weather disruptions have plagued air travel since travelers began returning after almost two years of heavy COVID-19 restrictions.
“More than three times as many complaints about airline service were filed in April with the U.S. Department of Transportation compared to April 2019,” reports Newsweek. “Of the 5,079 complaints, nearly a third concerned cancellations, delays and other schedule deviations. Another 32 percent involved refunds.”
More flights were canceled in June of 2022 than in June of any other previous year, according to data provided to the outlet from flight-tracking service FlightAware. The company reported that a total of 121,918 were canceled in the first six months of this year – already more than the 121,552 canceled in all 12 months of 2021.