The Federal Aviation Administration now has a Senate-confirmed administrator, after the body voted 98-0 to appoint Michael Whitaker to the top spot on Tuesday.
Whitaker takes over the FAA’s top job from Polly Trottenberg, who was appointed acting administrator in June. She was preceded in the acting position by Billy Nolen, who served from April 2022 to June 2023.
The FAA has not had a full-time, Senate-confirmed administrator since Stephen Dickson left the post in March 2022. He also was preceded by an acting FAA chief, Daniel Elwell, who served in the role for a little over 18 months from January 2018 to August 2019.
Approval of Whittaker, as previously reported, resounded throughout the aviation industry.
Aside from government service, Whitaker served for a time as assistant general counsel for TWA and then 15 years with United Airlines, including as senior vice president of alliances, and international and regulatory affairs. After leaving United, he was named Group CEO at InterGlobe Enterprises, the holding company for IndiGo, India’s largest airline.
Helicopter Association International President and Chief Executive Jim Viola, who worked with Whitaker at the FAA, praised Whitaker’s confirmation on Tuesday, noting his previous work to modernize the US National Airspace System.
“Having worked closely with Mike during my time at FAA, I have seen firsthand that he has the
knowledge and skill set to effectively lead the agency,” Viola said.
During his confirmation hearing, Whitaker pledged to tackle the personnel shortages, including air traffic controllers, pilots, and maintenance technicians, that are threatening aviation operations and growth, saying, “I would view my role as administrator as chief recruitment officer, certainly for the FAA, but also for the industry.”
The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) also hailed the Senate’s vote in favor of Whitaker as the next permanent administrator of the FAA, lauding his abilities as an aviation industry veteran and private pilot.
“Congratulations to Mike Whitaker on his well-deserved confirmation as FAA administrator,” said NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen. “We look forward to working with Mike, whose expertise will help chart a clear path toward a successful future for the aviation community.”