WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump is expected to soon nominate a former senior Delta Air Lines executive to head the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), administration and industry officials said on Friday.
Trump is set to pick Steve Dickson, who retired after 27 years at Delta in October as senior vice president of global flight operations, to run the 45,000-employee agency that oversees U.S. airspace. The agency has been run on an acting basis for 14 months by deputy administrator Dan Elwell, who is expected to remain at the FAA.
Dickson and the White House did not respond to messages seeking comment. The U.S. Transportation Department declined to comment.
Dickson oversaw Delta’s more than 13,000 pilots and an internal support team of 400 employees at Delta’s Atlanta headquarters. He flew the A320, B27, B737, B757 and B767 during his career at Delta and is a former U.S. Air Force officer and F-15 fighter pilot.
Last year, Reuters and other outlets reported Trump was considering his longtime personal pilot, John Dunkin, to lead the FAA.
Dunkin piloted Trump’s private fleet during the 2016 campaign, including his luxurious $100 million Boeing 757, but Trump as president now only flies aboard military planes. A Smithsonian documentary said Dunkin has been Trump’s personal pilot “on and off” since 1989. Dunkin said in the documentary he was the son of a military pilot.
The Wall Street Journal reported in November that Dickson was the leading compromise choice to run the FAA. Some Republican senators had raised concerns about Trump possibly nominating his personal pilot for the position.
The FAA is dealing with a number of major issues, including how to integrate drones into the nation’s airspace and modernizing air traffic control. In January, the FAA proposed rules that would allow drones to operate over populated areas and end a requirement for special permits for night use.
The FAA also must write a series of new rules required by Congress in a five-year reauthorization approved in October. For instance, the FAA must set minimum dimensions for passenger seats, including legroom and width “necessary for the safety of passengers.”
Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chris Reese