After the recent airline safety crisis cast a harsh light on his failure to name a Federal Aviation Administration chief, President Donald Trump announced Tuesday that he will nominate former Delta executive Stephen Dickson for the role.
Dickson, who recently retired from his position as Delta’s senior vice president of flight operations, is slated to fill the shoes of Michael Huerta, the Obama-era FAA chief who finished his term in January 2018.
Trump’s announcement comes after he came under scrutiny for his response to one of the biggest airline safety crises in recent memory: two fatal crashes of Boeing 737 Max 8 and Max 9 planes that took place within the last five months. While a worldwide boycott against the using the plane quickly mounted, Trump was one of the last world leaders to ban the aircraft last week.
With no Senate-confirmed FAA chief to guide Trump on the issue, Boeing CEO and Trump friend Dennis Muilenburg had the president’s ear and insisted that the plane was safe ― despite widespread concern raised by pilots flying the aircraft.
In addition to the lack of a permanent leader, the FAA’s working relationship with Boeing suffered after it delayed approving software upgrades to Boeing planes due to the record-long government shutdown. The agency has also struggled to find stability as Trump has continually proposed slashing the FAA budget, including a proposed $400 million cut earlier this month.
The FAA isn’t the only agency Trump has failed to supply with permanent leadership. Of more than 700 key positions requiring Senate confirmation, more than 140 have gone unfilled.