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FAA names acting administrator

Top safety official takes post

Outgoing FAA Administrator Steve Dickson, an airline industry veteran who announced in February he will depart at the end of March, will be replaced on an acting basis by another airline industry veteran: Billy Nolen, a relatively recent agency hire with a long history in executive roles supporting airline safety.

Billy Nolen. Photo courtesy of the FAA.

Dickson, whose tenure in the top job was rocked by crashes of the Boeing 737 Max that led to a worldwide grounding of the airliners, and later the arrival of 5G C-band wireless service that posed significant problems for aviation safety by disrupting critical aircraft safety equipment, will be succeeded (at least temporarily) by Nolen, who spent more than 30 years working for various air carriers. Nolen, a graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University who served as a captain for American Airlines, was promoted months after being named the FAA associate administrator of aviation safety in January. Nolen was most recently the vice president of safety, security, and quality for WestJet in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, a job he took in 2020.

Nolen previously held safety leadership roles with Qantas Airways, American Airlines, and Airlines for America. His professional career began in 1989 as a pilot, and Nolen earned type ratings in Boeing 757, Boeing 767, and McDonnell Douglas MD-80 aircraft. Nolen also served in the U.S. Army as a helicopter and airplane pilot, and as a safety officer.

The White House is conducting a national search for Dickson’s permanent replacement, a post that comes with a five-year term and requires U.S. Senate confirmation. FAA Deputy Administrator Bradley Mims will have an expanded role while the recruiting effort is ongoing, focusing on the agency’s workforce and airports, the agency announced.

“Billy Nolen has extensive expertise in aviation and a deep understanding of the vital role the FAA plays in ensuring the safety of the traveling public,” said U.S Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, in an FAA news release. “We are grateful to Steve for his service and to Billy and Brad for stepping up to lead the FAA during this critical time.”

Jim Moore

Jim Moore

Managing Editor-Digital Media
Digital Media Managing Editor Jim Moore joined AOPA in 2011 and is an instrument-rated private pilot, as well as a certificated remote pilot, who enjoys competition aerobatics and flying drones.
Topics: FAA Information and Services, People

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