Stephen Dickson faced a positive reception on Capitol Hill today as the Senate Commerce Committee held a confirmation hearing on his nomination as the next FAA administrator. However, at the same time, several members of the committee gave notice that they expect strong scrutiny on matters surrounding the Boeing 737 Max accidents.
Dickson, who testified as current acting FAA Administrator Dan Elwell faced separate questioning on the 737 Max in the House, had testified, “Despite the enviable track record of aviation safety in the U.S. over the past decade and more, we must never rest. In aviation, you are only as good as your last takeoff and your last landing. Humility is always in order.”
He stressed, in response to questions from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on FAA’s involvement in the Max safety, that he would be the “captain of the ship” and have a “steady hand on the tiller,” but added that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t ask tough questions.
Dickson also committed to work in a balanced fashion to integrate unmanned systems, ensure progress on cybersecurity initiatives, and continue efforts on supersonic transport regulations. On the latter, he said the FAA also needs to take a leadership role to ensure the international community is working alongside the agency on SST efforts.
As a former long-time Delta Air Lines executive, Dickson also noted his past involvement in NextGen matters and agreed that the agency needs to move forward expeditiously with modernization. But he also stressed the importance of working with all stakeholders—including general aviation—to ensure the agency moves forward with collaboration. “I have found that the only way to get things done is to foster an inclusive, collaborative environment that welcomes diverse points of view and provides transparency.”
Leading up to the hearing, business and general aviation groups emphasized their support for the nomination. NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen wrote Congress offering support for confirmation. Bolen pointed to Dickson’s “deep understanding of the air traffic control (ATC) system,” and said the nominee is “committed to advancing NextGen technologies that benefitted all airspace users, including general aviation.”
GAMA president and CEO Pete Bunce further expressed strong support. “I have known Steve for more than 40 years and am deeply familiar with his demonstrative leadership in aviation, both as an Air Force fighter pilot and as a senior executive at Delta Airlines. GAMA members also deeply value the contributions Steve has made to advancing air traffic modernization through his roles as chairman of the NextGen Implementation Task Force and as industry co-chair of the RTCA NextGen Advisory Committee Working Subcommittee.”
The White House in March announced plans to nominate Dickson, a former captain as well as senior v-p for flight operations at Delta Air Lines and F-15 fighter pilot, to a five-year term as FAA administrator.