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Biden taps Denver airport chief Phil Washington to go the FAA

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An American Airlines plane lands at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport November 23, 2021 in Arlington, Virginia.

Drew Angerer | Getty Images

President Joe Biden on Wednesday nominated Phil Washington, the top of Denver International Airport, to guide 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 tip of March, citing personal reasons. Billy Nolen, the FAA’s safety chief, was named as acting administrator. Washington has headed the Denver airport, one in all the country’s busiest, for a few yr and previously was CEO of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority for six years.

If confirmed, Washington will head an agency that has been working to enhance its status after two fatal crashes of Boeing’s 737 Max planes, which led to laws that tightened federal oversight of latest jetliners.

The FAA can be tasked with reviewing latest Boeing jets just like the 777X and the most important model of the Max, the 737 Max 10.  It hasn’t yet cleared Boeing to resume deliveries of its Dreamliner planes, which have been paused for more than a yr because of manufacturing flaws.

The agency has also been working with airlines to bring down the speed of flight delays and cancellations amid staffing shortages and other challenges. Tensions between the FAA and airline executives have escalated these days as they’ve blamed one another over an uptick in flight disruptions that has upended the travel plans of hundreds of passengers.

Airline executives have called out the staffing of air traffic controllers, which the FAA oversees, as causes for delays.

“The truth 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 Recent York and Florida. “Until that’s resolved, we expect the U.S. aviation system will probably be challenged this summer and beyond.”

The FAA, in response, said that its staffing is just not the explanation for many of the delays and cancellations, and as a substitute attributed the problems to air traffic control capability, airline staffing, weather and robust traffic.

United recently trimmed its schedule at Newark, Recent Jersey, to assist avoid delays. Other carriers including Delta, JetBlue and Southwest have also cut flights so they don’t seem to be overwhelmed when routine disruptions occur.

In a press release, the FAA said it appreciates the steps airlines are taking to improve performance, but that more clearly must be done to scale back cancellations and delays.

“It’s unlucky to see United Airlines conflate weather-related Air Traffic Control measures with ATC staffing issues, which could deceptively imply that a majority of those situations are the results of FAA staffing.”

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