WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) – Soon a new leader could take over the Federal Aviation Administration, with important implications for traveling Americans. This comes as Congress is also negotiating a funding plan for the agency.
President Biden nominated Michael Whitaker for the role of FAA Administrator. On Wednesday he faced questions at a Senate confirmation hearing, where lawmakers talked about the importance of filling the role.
“To put it simply the FAA has its work cut out for it,” Senator John Thune said.
The Federal Aviation Administration is dealing with a lot of issues ranging from understaffing to outdated technology. But Whitaker said he’s ready to take on the job of administrator.
“If confirmed my priority will be the safety of the flying public. They put their trust in the FAA to keep aviation the safest way to travel,” Whitaker said.
At the hearing he outlined his plans to improve safety, make new investments, and boost hiring.
Members of both parties signaled support for his nomination.
Senator Ted Cruz called the position crucially important.
“The next administrator will face serious challenges in rebuilding the FAA after unfortunately 18 months without a senate confirmed leader,” Cruz said.
This nomination comes at the same time that Congress is negotiating funding plans for the FAA’s next 5 years. Leaders say that money is critical to addressing the agency’s challenges.
“What we’re looking for are the means to do thinks like strengthen and grow the workforce of air traffic controllers so we don’t have shortages that could lead to delays. Also updating some of the technology systems,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said.
The House and the Senate are still trying to reconcile differences in their 5 year funding bills.
Senator Tammy Duckworth says prolonging passage of that funding plan has consequences.
“It means fewer pilots and fewer air traffic controllers and fewer maintenance workers in aviation, longer delays,” Duckworth.
The FAA’s money is set to run out at the end of December. That means lawmakers only have until then to reach a compromise.
“I do think that they’ll be able to get here. We really need them to get there because FAA has some urgent need here,” Buttigieg said.