The U.S. FAA promoted Earl Lawrence to executive director of the Aircraft Certification Service (AIR), succeeding Dorenda Baker, who retired after 32 years with AIR. Lawrence moves over to AIR from his role as executive director for the FAA’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration Office. Jay Merkle, who had been deputy vice president for the FAA Air Traffic Organization’s Program Management Office, steps into the role Lawrence is vacating. Both Lawrence and Merkle take their new posts on December 9 and report to FAA associate administrator for aviation safety Ali Bahrami.
Baker had steered AIR since 2009, overseeing certification and continued airworthiness activities for both commercial and general aviation. In that role, she managed a workforce of more than 1,300 employees at FAA’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., and more than 35 field offices. She was named to the executive director position in 2009 after serving as deputy director. During her extensive career with AIR, she also had served as assistant manager and manager of the Small Airplane Directorate.
The General Aviation Manufacturers Association praised her tenure with AIR. “She has played a pivotal role in defining a strategic vision and organization for AIR Transformation while establishing a culture of partnership and collaboration among stakeholders to effectively respond to safety, technology, and efficiency needs,” the association said. “This has helped build a foundation for future success through streamlining the efficiency of the FAA’s certification and validation processes. Under Dorenda’s leadership, our industry has made important progress in several key areas, including an update to the FAA and Industry Guide to Product Certification, the establishment of an Organization Delegation Authorization Scorecard, the ODA Continuous Improvement Team, and the Part 23 rewrite.”
Lawrence brings a strong general aviation background to his new role, serving as vice president for industry and regulatory affairs at the Experimental Aircraft Association before joining the FAA in 2010. He formerly was director of the FAA Small Airplane Directorate before taking the lead on the UAS Integration Office.
Meanwhile, Merkle has 25 years of engineering and program management experience both with the FAA and the defense industry. Before his most recent position with the Air Traffic Organization, he supported the UAS Integration Office and also was an architect of the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) program.
“As longstanding FAA advocates for safety, Earl Lawrence and Jay Merkle are the right selections at a critical time for emerging aviation technologies,” said FAA Acting Administrator Dan Elwell. “Their extensive experience will help ensure a safe transition as these new technologies mature and enter our country’s national airspace.”