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737 Max

Authors Suggest Capt. Sully for FAA Administrator, But Change Unlikely

Authors Suggest Capt. Sully for FAA Administrator, But Change Unlikely
Joe Cortez

Should the Biden Administration consider a new leader for the Federal Aviation Administration? Two co-authors of a book about the future of aviation after the COVID-19 pandemic and 737 MAX incidents suggest Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger should be the new leader of the organization. However, Washington insiders believe there will be no immediate changes coming.

With every new presidency comes a full change of cabinet-level officials, each of which will inevitably make their mark on policy for years to come. After president-elect Joe Biden named former South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg to lead the Transportation Department, could his next change be the administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration? In an editorial published by the San Francisco Chronicle, authors Shem Malmquist and Roger Rapoport call for the next administrator to be the captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger.

Authors Criticize Current FAA Administrator for Handling of 737 MAX Un-Grounding

Malmquist, described as a “veteran international Boeing captain,” accident investigator and visiting professor at Florida Institute of Technology, attacked current FAA administrator Stephen Dickson for both his record as an executive of Delta Air Lines and his handling of the Boeing 737 MAX un-grounding. Specifically, he and Rapoport noted the agency’s reluctance to disclose information about the process – an issue echoed by advocacy group

“For months normally communicative FAA and Boeing experts have refused to answer our questions focused on lessons learned from the MAX and other computer-related aviation disasters worldwide,” the authors write. “They include failed probability estimates, common cause anomalies, radio frequency interference, radome damage (the shell protecting the radar antenna), the parameters of horizontal stabilizer testing, unusual events where the stabilizer is dangerously stuck and emergency procedures. Any one of these issues could potentially be cause for concern with the recertified MAX and contribute to unexpected difficulties.”

Dickson was also admonished by the U.S. Senate Transportation Committee over the MAX, during a hearing over the summer of 2020. Legislators from both sides of the aisle accused him of “stonewalling” senators from the investigation, and not providing enough insight as to the cultural safety changes implemented by both Boeing and the FAA.

As an alternative, the two suggest Sullenberger, a U.S. Air Force Academy graduate and former US Airways pilot, would be a better fit for the role under the Biden administration. In an interview with the Seattle Times, the aviator was critical of the proposed fixes to the 737 MAX, saying the updated aircraft is “…not as good as it should be.”

“We believe Transportation Secretary nominee Pete Buttigieg and President-elect Joe Biden should ask FAA Administrator Dickson to resign and replace him with a well-qualified independent voice: “Miracle on the Hudson” Captain Chesley Sullenberger,” the two write. “Sullenberger has the lifetime experience, wisdom and good judgment to lead the FAA at this critical moment in American aviation history.”

Neither representatives from the Biden-Harris transition team nor Sullenberger have publicly commented on the editorial.

Insiders Believe Change is Unlikely Inside the FAA

Despite the praise from Malmquist, political insiders believe that Dickson will remain in charge of FAA into 2021. His term as the FAA leader doesn’t expire until 2024, and Politico previously reported that his post could be upheld to maintain stability during the transition.


View Comments (5)


  1. BlueJayFlyer

    December 31, 2020 at 8:45 am

    Why would Sully want that headache?

  2. SamirD

    December 31, 2020 at 9:34 am

    Maybe with this news Amazon will put the movie Sully on prime…maybe?

  3. dp118

    December 31, 2020 at 12:12 pm

    He should be scrutinized carefully by the incoming administration. A major problem in many federal agencies is they get captured by the industries they are mandated to regulate and oversee. This happens when senior executives from the regulated industries assume leadership of the regulating federal agencies. A cozy relationship can develop and eventually the federal agency’s regulating and oversight apparatus becomes inneffectual. This might pass unseen by the public in agencies such as the EPA, Energy, or Education. Not so in the aviation business as we witnessed so clearly in the two Max 737 accidents.

  4. volabam

    January 2, 2021 at 7:11 am

    No way they’ll put someone with actual knowledge and experience in that position.

  5. Dublin_rfk

    January 3, 2021 at 5:08 am

    Having someone with at least a working knowledge of aviation in the position would be nice and different. The question is does Capt Sullenberger want to try to heard cats?

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