Clear Skies Ahead? Doubts Arise Over Biden’s FAA Pick

Is Nominee Phillip Washington Flying Blind?

“Our continuing mission is to provide the safest, most efficient aerospace system in the world,” the Federal Aviation Administration claims. People who fly, and those who don’t, might wonder about Phillip Washington, Joe Biden’s pick to head the FAA. In a March 1 hearing, Washington faced a series of basic questions, such as:

What kind of airspace requires an ADS-B transponder? What are the six types of special-use airspace that appear on FAA charts? What are the operational limitations of a pilot flying under basic med? What causes an aircraft to spin or to stall? What are the three types certifications the FAA requires as part of the manufacturing process? What is the difference between FAA regulations 107 and 44809 regarding unmanned aircraft such as drones?

The “basic med” question concerned an aircraft’s number of passengers, weight, and speed. Mr. Washington guessed that it concerned “high blood pressure,” and the Biden nominee proved unable to answer a single one of the questions. Shaky on the safety side, the nominee does boast impressive connections. 

“Washington led Biden’s transition team for the Transportation Department” in 2020, notes National Public Radio. The Delaware Democrat first nominated Washington in early July 2022, “but he failed to get a hearing even though Democrats controlled the Senate.” Biden re-nominated Washington in January, so it’s pretty clear the FAA was a reward for service to Joe Biden. On the other hand, there’s more to it. 

At all levels, the various boards and commissions serve as soft landing spots for politicians, party loyalists, and bureaucrats. Witness Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, a former presidential candidate, on extended paternity leave during a supply-chain crisis and ignoring a train derailment in Ohio. 

In a similar style, Biden labor secretary nominee Julie Su enabled billions in unemployment fraud and supported the elimination of independent freelance workers. California’s High Speed Rail Authority has yet to carry a passenger. Still, its board is home to Lynn Schenk, a former member of Congress and chief of staff to California Gov. Gray Davis.

“FAA system outage disrupts thousands of flights across U.S,” reported CNBC back in January. “Thousands of flights across the U.S. were delayed Wednesday after a Federal Aviation Administration pilot alert system failed overnight, prompting a nationwide halt to departures.” And so on. 

Under Biden’s pick Phillip Washington, would the FAA continue to provide the “safest and most efficient” airspace in the world? Senators, pilots, and the public have much to ponder. 

K. Lloyd Billingsley is a Policy Fellow at the Independent Institute and a columnist at American Greatness.
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