Dickson, Former Delta Exec., Confirmed as FAA Administrator

By Dan Parsons | July 24, 2019
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In a party line vote of 52-40, the Senate on July 24 confirmed Stephen Dickson, a former vice president of flight operations at Delta, as the 18th administrator of the FAA for a five-year term.

Dickson replaces Dan Elwell, who has served as acting administrator since January 2018.

Stephen Dickson

Stephen Dickson (Delta Air Lines)


Dickson is recently retired from Delta, where he was responsible for safety and performance of the airline’s global operations, pilot training, crew resources, scheduling and regulatory compliance. He also is a former airline captain with time on the Airbus A320 and Boeing 727, 737, 757 and 767.

Matt Zuccaro, president and CEO of Helicopter Association International, said the announcement comes at a “critical time” in aviation when having a fully staffed FAA is of paramount importance.

“Steve has a comprehensive understanding of the national air transportation system gained from a distinguished military and commercial career in aviation,” Zuccaro said. “We look forward to working with him to enhance safety and promote growth in the helicopter community.”

Zuccaro also commended outgoing Acting Administrator Dan Elwell for his 19-month stewardship of the agency, saying he served the aviation community “with distinction” in the acting role.

John Langford, president of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), praised Dickson’s aviation and executive experience as relevant to the challenges he will face at FAA. Those challenges include implementing the Next Generation Air Transportation System, the advent of commercial space operations, expanding integration of unmanned aerial vehicles into the National Airspace System and managing an emerging air taxi market.

“Dickson takes the helm of the world’s largest and safest aerospace system at a very important time in its history,” Langford said in a prepared statement. “Aviation is advancing so rapidly that it is important for the United States to not only keep up but to maintain its global superiority. I’m confident that his many years of aviation experience as a pilot, industry executive, and well-respected advisor will serve him well in this role.”

Dickson is a 1979 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, a former F-15 fighter pilot and holds a law degree from the Georgia State University College of Law.

National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) President Paul Rinaldi, who served with Dickson on the FAA’s Management Advisory Committee for a decade, praised the new administrator’s dedication to aviation safety.

“NATCA shares with Administrator Dickson a strong commitment to the safety of our National Airspace System,” Rinaldi said. “Throughout the last decade, NATCA and the FAA have enjoyed a successful working relationship that has enabled notable progress modernizing the National Airspace System and strengthening the workforce. We look forward to furthering these efforts with the new Administrator.”

Rep. Sam Graves, R-Missouri, ranking member of the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, said having a confirmed FAA administration is “vital to ensuring the safety and improvement of the national aviation system.” Elwell, appointed by the Trump administration to become deputy administrator in June 2017, became acting chief when Michael Huerta’s five-year term ended six months later. Elwell was never nominated by the administration to fill the role full time.

“I also want to praise Dan Elwell, who has served as the Acting Administrator for the last year and a half, for his stalwart leadership and professionalism during very difficult circumstances,” Graves said. “I look forward to working with both of them as we move forward to attract more Americans to careers in aviation, improve our aviation infrastructure across the country, and maintain the safest aviation system in the world.”

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