FAA safety officer Billy Nolen has been appointed acting administrator

A plane takes off from Ronald Reagan National Airport as air travel is impacted by the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Washington
FILE PHOTO: A plane takes off from Ronald Reagan National Airport in Washington, United States, March 18, 2020. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

March 26, 2022

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Biden administration on Saturday named the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) chief of security as acting head of the agency, effective Friday.

Billy Nolen, who was appointed the FAA’s assistant flight safety administrator in December, was previously the vice president of safety and quality for WestJet Airlines in Canada.

Nolen, who began his career as a pilot with American Airlines, will replace FAA Administrator Steve Dickson, who is stepping down March 31 pending the White House nomination of a permanent successor.

“Billy Nolen brings extensive aviation expertise and a deep understanding of the important role the FAA plays in ensuring the safety of the traveling public,” said US Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg.

Nolen leads a team of more than 7,600 FAA employees. The FAA’s safety efforts and oversight of Boeing have come under fire after two deadly crashes involving the 737 MAX in five months killed 346 people and led to the plane’s 20-month grounding. Congress in December 2020 passed legislation reforming the FAA’s certification of new aircraft and delegated some duties to manufacturers such as Boeing.

Dickson, 64, is stepping down about halfway through his five-year tenure. The Biden administration “is conducting a national search for a candidate to become the permanent FAA administrator,” the FAA said Saturday.

Dickson led the FAA, which oversaw a comprehensive review of the then-decommissioned Boeing 737 MAX. He took a hard line, warning in late 2019 that Boeing was pursuing “an unrealistic timeline for returning to service.”

Earlier this week, the FAA warned Boeing that it might not receive certification of an extended version of the 737 MAX before a critical safety deadline set by Congress, and also requested updates on progress for both the 737 MAX 10 and 777-9, Reuters reported on Friday.

The FAA is still reviewing a number of issues affecting Boeing and said last month it would not allow Boeing to self-certify 787 Dreamliners.

Nolen will face the headache of 5G wireless deployment across the C-band spectrum, a problem that has seen major international airlines scramble to cancel some US flights amid warnings the network could disrupt sensitive avionics . Nolen has been in ongoing discussions with representatives from the telecommunications and aviation industries.

The FAA also said Saturday that FAA Assistant Administrator Bradley Mims “will also assume an expanded role during this transition period, focusing on the FAA’s workforce and the country’s airports.”

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Diane Craft and Aurora Ellis) FAA safety officer Billy Nolen has been appointed acting administrator


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