Stephen Dickson has taken up the role of FAA administrator, following a vote in the U.S. Senate which narrowly approved his nomination with a result of 52-40.
Although the nomination of the former Delta Air Lines executive received support from within the industry, he received no backing from Democrats following claims of whistleblower retaliation dating back to his time as senior vice president of flight operations at Delta.
“It is clear to me he is not the right person for the safety culture that we need today at the FAA,” said Sen. Maria Cantwell (Wash.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.
“We’ve never had a partisan vote on an FAA nominee in the past, and I believe that we should have found consensus on a nominee for the FAA, given all of the concerns the public has about flying safety.”
Dickson’s nomination was narrowly approved along party lines by the Commerce Committee and passed a significant hurdle on Tuesday when the Senate voted 52-45 to limit the debate – removing the possibility of a filibuster on the nomination vote.
The controversy surrounding whistleblower retaliation dates back to an incident involving Delta pilot Karlene Petitt, who spoke out about safety issues and was subsequently forced to undergo a psychiatric evaluation and barred from flying.
Among those in the industry who spoke out in support of Dickson’s appointment was NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen, who said: “NBAA has had a close working relationship with Steve for many years, and we’re confident he’s the right man for the job.”
“Having a permanent Administrator at the FAA is key to ensuring the continued advancement of important work being done on aviation-system modernization, equipment certification, workforce development, safety, and other top priorities.”