A former bigwig at Delta could be making decisions that will impact the nation’s entire aviation industry. President Trump nominated former Delta executive Stephen Dickson to be in charge of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The post has actually been vacant for a while. An Obama appointee named Michael Huerta stepped down from the position at the end of his five-year term in 2018.
Stephen Dickson will need to get confirmation from the Senate before he becomes the new head of the FAA. He formerly handled flight operations for Delta. He will soon be in charge of overseeing what is the world’s largest air-traffic system if he is approved. Dickson’s background also includes time spent at the Air Force Academy and a stint as a fighter pilot. He retired from Delta in October of last year.
There’s no doubt that the FAA is in the middle of handling some very serious issues. The recent Ethiopian Airlines crash involving a Boeing 737 Max caused the FAA to order the aircraft grounded across the country. Many people are now calling into question the FAA’s decision to approve the aircraft for flight in the United States. In fact, the U.S. Department of Transportation has asked for a large-scale review of the certification process for the 737 MAX. The Department of Justice is also probing the FAA’s relationship to the 737 Max. However, the criminal probe actually began months before the Ethiopian Airlines crash. The Department of Justice began investigating the FAA’s certification and marketing of 737 Max planes back in October of last year. Investigators would like to know more about the FAA’s procedures regarding safety and certifications. There is no word yet regarding exactly which laws the FAA and Boeing may have violated during the process of bringing the new 737 Max planes to the market. However, this investigation will be inherited by Dickson as soon as he steps into his new position. The findings of the investigation threaten to tarnish the reputation of the FAA for years to come. We also don’t know how long Max 737 planes will remain grounded.
Dickson enjoyed a robust career at Delta. He played a role in helping to modernize the air-traffic system as we know it. This experience will serve him well if he does take over as head of the FAA. Technology is one of the big categories that the FAA is currently focusing on at the moment. The agency is in the process of spending billions of dollars to upgrade the country’s satellite-based flight tracking.
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