The Federal Aviation Administration’s safety chief Billy Nolen has been named as the acting leader of the agency, effective Friday.
Nolen will replace outgoing FAA administrator Steve Dickson, who recently announced his intention to step down from the role on March 31st. Dickson’s resignation comes only halfway through his five-year term.
The new administrator brings a wealth of aviation experience to the role, having worked with American Airlines for 26 years. Nolen, who only joined the FAA in December as associate administrator for aviation safety, was previously working with WestJet Airlines, serving as the Canadian company’s vice president for safety, security and quality.
Mr. Nolen will take the position until the FAA appoint a permanent successor to Mr. Dickson.
The FAA administrator is responsible for over 7,600 people employed by the agency. Nolen will take the role on a temporary basis at a challenging time for the administration, which has faced criticism for the role it played in oversights leading to two fatal crashes involving Boeing 737 Max jets.
The crashes occurred within five months of each other, killing 346 people. The 737 Max was grounded for 20 months as a result. The stress of dealing with the fallout from the crashes is believed to have influenced the 64-year-old Mr. Dickson’s decision to resign.
The appointment was backed by US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who pointed to the experience Nolen brings to the role.
“Billy Nolen has extensive expertise in aviation and a deep understanding of the vital role the FAA plays in ensuring the safety of the traveling public,” said the government official.
The FAA confirmed that the search for a permanent administrator has commenced, saying in a statement that the Biden administration was leading the process.