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President Biden plans to nominate Denver airport CEO to head FAA

Phillip Washington has been the CEO of Denver International Airport for a year, and before that served as the RTD director for Denver and spent six years in Los Angeles leading its transportation authority.

Phillip Washington, the CEO of the Denver International Airport, speaks at the United Airlines’ Flight Training Center on June 1, 2022, in Denver. On Wednesday, the Biden Administration said it plans to nominate Washington to be the new head of the FAA. (Hugh Carey, The Colorado Sun)

By David Koenig, AP Airlines Writer

The White House said Wednesday that President Joe Biden plans to nominate Phillip Washington, the CEO of Denver International Airport, to lead the Federal Aviation Administration.

Washington is well known to Biden administration figures. In late 2020, he served on Biden’s transition, leading a team that advised the incoming administration on transportation policy.

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The FAA is currently led by acting chief, Billy Nolen, after former pilot and Delta Air Lines executive Stephen Dickson stepped down March 31.

The FAA has come under criticism for its approval of the Boeing 737 Max jetliner, which was later involved in two deadly crashes, and its slow reaction to fears that new wireless networks could interfere with critical equipment on planes.

This summer, airlines have accused the FAA of causing many flights to be delayed or canceled, partly because of a shortage of air traffic controllers, a claim disputed by administration officials.

Washington has a limited resume in aviation. He has been the top executive at the Denver airport only since last July. He has been closely tied to a plan to improve the airport for growth expected over the next 10 years, and called for building two new runways in addition to one under construction.

Before that, he led the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority from 2015 to 2021 and ran Denver’s regional transportation agency between 2009 and 2015.

Washington spent 24 years in the U.S. Army, and holds a bachelor’s degree in business from Columbia College and a master’s degree in management from Webster University, according to the White House.

The FAA has been without a Senate-confirmed administrator since Dickson, in a surprise move, stepped down halfway through his five-year term.  

The FAA approved the Boeing Max before Dickson took over in 2019. He oversaw the approval of Boeing-made changes to a key flight-control system that played a role in the crashes, and he won praise for resisting pressure from Boeing’s then-CEO, Dennis Muilenburg, to speed up the review of Boeing’s work.


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