The five-year term of FAA administrator Michael Huerta came
to a close on Friday. Dan Elwell, Huerta's deputy administrator since late
June, is now serving as acting head of the agency.
Huerta took over as acting director of the FAA in December
2011 and was appointed by President Obama to lead the agency in January 2013.
During his tenure, he wrestled with implementation of the NextGen GPS-based air
traffic control system as well as the emerging need for regulations on drone
In what amounted to a farewell speech at the Aero Club of
Washington in November, Huerta took particular pride in his effort to improve
relations with those the FAA regulates.
"I never expected to have such a long term as
administrator," he said. "But I knew my tenure would be pretty short
if we couldn't achieve better ties with industry. Fortunately, you were more
than willing to work with us on finding better ways to do business."
Huerta also appealed for a level-headed, fact-based
discussion on a House proposal to remove air traffic control from the auspices
of the FAA and instead turn over management of the nation's air traffic system to
a private nonprofit managed by a board of aviation industry stakeholders.
"We can't keep talking past each other. We need to talk
with each other," he said. "The sky above our heads is one of this
nation's most valuable assets. We must protect it. We must help it thrive."
Trade group Airlines For America called Huerta a "tireless advocate for our shared goal of always putting the safety of
passengers and crew first. The fact that we are in the safest period in aviation
history is a testament to the culture of safety embraced within the FAA and
throughout the aviation community today."
Elwell is an appointee of President Donald Trump who served
as the FAA assistant administrator for policy, planning, and environment from
2006-2008, during the administration of George W. Bush. More recently, he was
senior advisor on aviation to current secretary of transportation Elaine Chao.