BREAKING: Mike Whitaker Nominated to Prime Spot at FAA

The Biden administration has nominated Mike Whitaker to be FAA Administrator.

Following months of speculation – Whitaker was first mentioned as a candidate in May – FAA veteran Mike Whitaker has been named as the nominee for the FAA’s top position.  Whitaker is the Biden administrations second nominee: Denver Airport CEO Phil Washington withdrew his nomination amidst criticism of his aviation experience.  The position of FAA Administrator must be confirmed by the Senate.

Whitaker served as deputy administrator of the FAA from 2013 to 2016, where he led the NextGen air traffic control modernization program. Whitaker has deep experience in the manned aircraft industry, serving as the head of international and regulatory affairs for United Airlines for more than 15 years.  Recently, Whitaker has joined the advanced aviation industry: he is currently the COO of Hyundai’s air mobility arm, Supernal.

The nomination is welcome news.  The FAA has not had a permanent leader since former Administrator Steve Dickson left the job midway through his 5 year appointment.  Since then, Acting Administrator Billy Nolen left the FAA to take a job at advanced air mobility company Archer Aviation: current Acting Administrator Polly Trottenberg’s tenure will expire by law next month.

For the drone industry, the nomination may provide a leader able to move integration of uncrewed systems forward. Drone industry advocacy group AUVSI has praised the nomination:

“At this critical moment when our national airspace system is becoming increasingly complex, Mike Whitaker is an exceptionally qualified choice to ensure the U.S. remains the aviation safety gold standard, manage the Agency and its 45,000 employees and enhance U.S. global aviation competitiveness.

During his prior service as FAA Deputy Administrator and Chief NextGen officer, Whitaker proved himself a highly capable and productive federal official. We urge the U.S. Senate to begin Whitaker’s confirmation hearing without delay and to move toward a rapid confirmation.

AUVSI looks forward to working with Whitaker and Deputy Administrator Katie Thomson to enhance airspace safety while supporting the integration of uncrewed systems into the airspace. Doing so will bring significant workforce, economic and environmental benefits to American communities.”

The Commercial Drone Alliance also praised the nomination:

The Commercial Drone Alliance supports the Biden-Harris White House’s nomination of Michael Whitaker as the next FAA Administrator. With a deep background in advanced aviation and having served as Deputy Administrator of the FAA from 2013 to 2016, Mr. Whitaker is eminently qualified to lead the agency.

The hardworking professionals at the FAA deserve the continuity and consistency of a Senate-confirmed leader, particularly at this critical and exciting time for advanced aviation. Uncrewed aircraft systems (UAS), for example, are already enhancing lives in communities around the world. The safety, security, efficiency, sustainability, and equity benefits of commercial drones are significant, yet the U.S. lags behind other countries in developing policy to unlock this beneficial technology.

“We are grateful to see Mike Whitaker’s nomination sent to the Hill, and we urge his swift confirmation by the Senate,” said Lisa Ellman, Executive Director of the Commercial Drone Alliance. “The commercial drone industry can offer many societal benefits, but only if policy keeps up with technology. We are counting on Mike Whitaker’s leadership to spur action on long-awaited regulatory items such as beyond visual line of sight and expanded drone operations, which will ultimately usher in the next era of advanced aviation.”

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Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has penned over 3,000 articles focused on the commercial drone space and is an international speaker and recognized figure in the industry.  Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
For drone industry consulting or writing, Email Miriam.


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