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President Biden’s pick to head the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has withdrawn himself from being considered – after facing criticism for his lack of aviation experience amid six high-profile near-miss collisions earlier this year.
Phillip Washington’s nomination was announced by the White House last year – a decision that was quickly met with pushback from Republican lawmakers questioning the 65-year-old’s credentials.
Washington has been the CEO of Denver International Airport since 2021.
Also cited by critics against Washington’s ascension to top aviation regulator are his potential legal entanglements, including questions about his connection to a corruption investigation in Los Angeles while heading the county’s MTA.
Since then, Washington assumed the role of chief executive of Denver International, with Biden tapping him for the all-important role this past July. Washington’s current post is his only involving aviation in a more than four-decade career.
The White House over the weekend confirmed Washington’s withdrawal – which comes when the FAA is already feeling heat over a number of recent safety issues, as well airline service interruptions blamed on a recent January system outage.
Phillip Washington, 65, is withdrawing his nomination after Republican criticism for a lack of experience
The FAA has had a number of recent safety issues, with six serious runway incursions since January prompted the agency to convene a safety summit last week
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg late Saturday confirmed Washington’s withdrawal from the running, which was first reported Saturday by Reuters.
‘The partisan attacks and procedural obstruction he has faced are undeserved, but I respect his decision to withdraw and am grateful for his service,’ Buttigieg said on Twitter.
A White House official told CNN that Washington was withdrawing his name due to ‘an onslaught of unfounded Republican attacks’ from reps including but not limited to Texas Senator Ted Cruz.
A rep further asserted to The New York Times that Washington had the right qualifications and experience to run the airline regulator.
‘Unfortunately, an onslaught of unfounded Republican attacks on Mr. Washington’s service and experience irresponsibly delayed this process, threatened unnecessary procedural hurdles on the Senate floor, and ultimately have led him to withdraw his nomination,’ the spokesperson said.
Officials added that the decision was ultimately Washington’s – a 24-year Army veteran whose career, while involving transportation, have been largely confined to the ground.
For years, he led Denver’s Regional Transportation District and later the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority – where he found himself involved in public corruption investigation involving no-bid contracts awarded by his transit system to a nonprofit operating a sexual harassment hotline.
Washington has since denied any wrongdoing in the matter, which is currently being investigated by the California attorney general’s office.
The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation had been slated to vote on Washington’s nomination Wednesday, but the postponed because ‘they don’t have the votes to report him out of committee,’ a Republican aide told CNN.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg late Saturday confirmed Washington’s withdrawal from the running, which was first reported Saturday
The FAA is already feeling heat over a number of recent safety issues as well airline service interruptions blamed on January system outage affecting several airlines such as Southwest
Washington had served as the CEO of Denver International Airport since 2021 – but apart from that has no aviation experience
Calls to remove Washington from the running have been rife in recent months, and have come almost simultaneously with a slew of safety questions petitioning to a series of close-call safety incidents and mass closures seen from airlines such as Southwest.
Senator Ted Cruz, ranking Republican on the Senate Commerce Committee, said late Saturday that it has been clear since his nomination that ‘Mr. Washington lacked the aviation experience necessary to run the FAA.
‘The Biden administration must now quickly name someone to head the FAA who has an extensive aviation background, can earn widespread bipartisan support in the Senate, and will keep the flying public safe.’
Cruz and other Republicans had said Washington, who retired from the U.S. Army in July 2000, needed a waiver from rules requiring civilian leadership to head the FAA. The Transportation Department’s general counsel said Washington was fully qualified and did not need a waiver.
Cruz noted Washington has only about two years of experience as an airport CEO and criticized Washington’s inability to answer some aviation questions at his confirmation hearing.
The White House insisted Washington was fully qualified. Cantwell had said he would shakeup the agency saying ‘we feel that industry and FAA got too cozy.’
A White House official had earlier told Reuters: ‘Politics must not hold up confirming an administrator to lead the FAA, and we will move expeditiously to nominate a new candidate for FAA administrator.’
The official said: ‘An onslaught of unfounded Republican attacks on Mr Washington’s service and experience irresponsibly delayed this process, threatened unnecessary procedural hurdles on the Senate floor, and ultimately have led him to withdraw his nomination today.’
Washington was originally nominated in July but did not get a hearing from the Commerce Committee until March 1.
The FAA has had a number of recent safety issues.
In January, the FAA halted all departing passenger airline flights for nearly two hours because of a pilot messaging database outage, the first nationwide ground stop of its kind since the September 11, 2001, attacks.
The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board confirmied in a statement this past week that they are probing aseries of incidents that have spiked concern
Baltimore International Airport on January 12: A Southwest Airlines flight had a 173-foot near-miss with an ambulance truck that crossed the runway without authorization
John F. Kennedy International Airport: On January 15, an American Airlines flight nearly hit a Delta Airlines plane as the American Airlines flight which was taking off
Seattle Tacoma International on January 26: Two Alaska Airlines planes scraped their tails on the tarmac as they took off, due to a software bug that left the pilots thinking their aircrafts were 20,000 pounds lighter
An American Airlines plane was seen crossing the path of a Delta flight as it was about to take off. Air traffic control exclaimed ‘s***!’ as they noticed the potential collision
Austin International Airport on February 4: A Southwest jet headed to Mexico was given the OK to take off but apparently took too long. By the time it tried to begin its ascent, a Boeing 767 cargo plane was approaching its landing
Ronald Reagan Washington International on March 7: Republic Airlines flight 4736 nearly collides with United Airlines Flight 2003 after it crossed a runway without clearance
Hollywood Burbank Airport on March 18: A Southwest Airlines flight was told to ‘go around’ due to a helicopter on the runway. This is the second incident at the airport in a matter of weeks at the Southern California Airport
On Wednesday, the FAA issued a safety alert to airlines, pilots and others about the ‘need for continued vigilance and attention to mitigation of safety risks’ after a series of high-profile near collisions.
Six serious runway incursions have occurred since January that prompted the agency to convene a safety summit last week.
Some industry officials think the White House could name acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen as a new nominee. Nolen, who was named head of the FAA’s aviation safety office, has been the acting FAA administrator since April 2022 and has received backing from many Republicans in Congress.
Washington had won support from a wide range of groups, including a number of aviation unions and a group of family members of some killed in a 2019 fatal Boeing (BA.N) 737 MAX crash.
The FAA has been without a permanent administrator for almost a year.
This was the second major Bide nominee to withdraw in recent weeks. Gigi Sohn, his pick for a key fifth seat on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), withdrew dealing a setback for Democrats who have been unable to take control of the telecom regulator for more than two years.
During this time of uncertain leadership, hundreds have demanded the FAA address ‘technology issues’ affecting airlines that seem to have become more pronounced over the past year – including cancellations seen in January by the airline Southwest.
The airline was forced to cancel thousands of flights earlier this year after a FAA pilot alert system failed overnight, prompting a nationwide halt to departures.
Other challenges include the ongoing fallout from two 737 Max airline crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia, which has forced the FAA to further analyze its safety procedures.
The crashes, occurring in 2018 and 2019, respectively, claimed 346 lives.
Other challenges include the ongoing fallout from two 737 Max airline crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia, which has forced the FAA to further analyze its safety procedures
Source: DailyMail UK