Aviation advocacy groups, federal transportation officials, and airlines are applauding the Biden Administration’s nomination of Michael Whitaker as chief of the Federal Aviation Administration and urging the Senate to speed his confirmation.
Whitaker, who the White House pointed out has 30 years of aviation experience, served as the FAA’s deputy administrator during the Obama Administration. He currently serves as chief operating officer at Hyundai’s Supernal, developing electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) vehicles.
“He knows how to work in government and across the aviation community to get big things done,” the White House said in a Sept. 7 statement announcing Whitaker’s nomination. “The FAA needs a confirmed Administrator—and Mike Whitaker is the right person for the job.”
Whitaker would take 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.
The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) lauded Whitaker’s credentials as a lawyer, aviation industry professional, and private pilot, in addition to his leadership during his 2013–2016 tenure as deputy administrator of an effort to modernize the U.S. air traffic control system.
“Mike Whitaker has long been an outspoken aviation safety advocate and champion of innovation in the industry, who demonstrated during his time as deputy administrator at the FAA that he is a proven leader who delivers results,” said NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen. “We enthusiastically support his confirmation as FAA administrator.”
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, international and regulatory affairs. After leaving United, he was named Group CEO at InterGlobe Enterprises, the holding company for IndiGo, India’s largest airline.
American Airlines also supported the nomination in a statement, saying it would support his confirmation “during this critical time in aviation.”
“It is essential that the FAA be led by a permanent administrator who understands the intricacies of the system,” the airline said. “A former FAA Deputy Administrator who has spent decades in the aviation industry, Mr. Whitaker is eminently qualified for the role.”
Helicopter Association International (HAI) President and Chief Executive Jim Viola likewise praised Whitaker’s nomination, saying his experience will allow him to effectively lead the FAA, especially his leadership of the Next Generation Air Transportation System, also called NextGen.
“I worked closely with Mike during my tenure overseeing general aviation at the FAA, and from what I saw, I am confident he is the right person to lead the agency at a time when aviation—particularly vertical aviation—is evolving at such a rapid pace,” Viola said. “Vertical aviation is leading the future with advanced helicopter technology, electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, uncrewed aircraft system (UAS) operations, and continued innovation across the vertical flight sector. As our industry moves forward, it is critical that the United States has strong leadership at the FAA to provide global regulatory guidance while continuing to set the gold standard in safety. HAI is confident Mike will provide that leadership.”