The U.S. Senate today approved the nomination of Stephen Dickson to a five-year term as FAA administrator by a vote of 52-40. Announced in March, the nomination had received broad industry backing, with leaders characterizing the former Delta Air Lines senior v-p of flight operations and U.S. Air Force F-15 pilot as a champion of safety with deep industry knowledge.
However, his nomination remained shrouded in controversy through the confirmation after a complaint came to light alleging that Delta had retaliated after a whistleblower expressed safety concerns. The events detailed in the complaint occurred while Dickson was in senior management at the airline. However, Dickson was not specifically named as a party to the complaint.
The Commerce Committee narrowly approved the nomination along party lines. But it cleared a key hurdle Tuesday afternoon when the Senate voted 52-45 to limit debate. That vote paved the way for a Senate vote on the nomination without fear of a filibuster.
Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Washington), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee, reiterated her concerns before the procedural vote, saying, “It is clear to me he is not the right person for the safety culture that we need today at the FAA…It is distressing to me that Mr. Dickson advanced out of committee on just a party-line vote. I believe that we should have found consensus on a nominee for the FAA, given all of the concerns the public has about flying safety.”
Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi), however, has endorsed the nomination, calling Dickson an “excellent nominee.”