Ted Eytan, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0
The process of appointing an FAA Administrator continues, as the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation moved the nomination of former FAA Deputy Mike Whitaker unanimously through committee.
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The nomination will now need to be confirmed by vote of the full Senate. Drone industry advocacy groups have vocalized their strong support of Whitaker’s nomination and urged swift action on a vote. The position of FAA Administrator, a critical leadership role, has been filled by a series of acting administrators since former FAA Administrator Steve Dickson resigned midway through his 5 year term in March of 2022.
U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, said in a statement before the vote: “Mr. Whitaker is highly qualified with more than 30 years of aviation experience in both the public and private sectors.
Key roles include serving as FAA Deputy Administrator from 2013 to 2016, where he helped advance technological improvements to the National Airspace System, and the transition to the satellite-enabled surveillance technology – ABS-B. This is important NextGen technology that I think is helping us upgrade our aviation system. He also served in major leadership roles at airlines and aviation technology companies.
His nomination has attracted bipartisan support and broad agreement within the aviation community.”
“The Commercial Drone Alliance is grateful that the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation today unanimously voted Michael Whitaker out of Committee as the next FAA Administrator. We urge a swift confirmation by the full Senate. Mr. Whitaker’s leadership will come at a pivotal time as the U.S. looks to fully harness the significant societal benefits of commercial drones and regain its position as a global leader in advanced aviation,” says Lisa Ellman, Executive Director of the Commercial Drone Alliance. “Mr. Whitaker’s background in advanced aviation positions him to take action on long-overdue regulatory items like enabling beyond visual line of sight drone operations, and we look forward to working together to swiftly and safely advance these initiatives.”
Drone advocacy group AUVSI also stressed the need for a permanent leader at the FAA.
“The advanced aviation industry is ready to support the transition to a national airspace system that supports U.S. global aviation leadership, is more technologically advanced, has higher safety standards, and welcomes new entrants. To meet the challenges and opportunities of this new aviation era, the FAA needs a Senate-confirmed Administrator,” said President and CEO Brian Wynne.
As he demonstrated at his nomination hearing, Mike Whitaker’s aviation experience and vision for the FAA make him a strong choice for the leadership role. AUVSI urges Senate leadership to bring Mr. Whitaker’s nomination for a floor vote without delay, and we urge Senators on both sides of the aisle to vote in favor of his nomination.”
NATE, The Communications Infrastructure Contractors Association, also issued a statement of support.
“NATE welcomes today’s news advancing Michael Whitaker’s nomination through the committee process,” said President & CEO Todd Schlekeway. “NATE collaborates with the FAA closely on issues ranging from agency tower site review timelines, tower site obstruction lighting and marking requirements, the advancement of commercial drone utilization, and member contractor onboarding processes for companies who do work with the agency. The Association encourages the full U.S. Senate to vote on Mr. Whitaker’s nomination promptly to fill this current void in leadership at the agency,” added Schlekeway.
While a 5 year appointment of FAA Administrator would be a welcome step for the agency and help to move stalled projects forward, the FAA still lacks a 5 year funding bill. Currently, the FAA Reauthorization package of 2018, which expired at the end of September, has been extended only through the end of December.
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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