Biden picks Denver Airport chief to head FAA



US President Joe Biden has announced his intent to nominate Phillip Washington, CEO, Denver International Airport (DIA) to head up the FAA as its new administrator.

Washington has just over a year of experience in the aviation industry, having worked as CEO of DIA since July last year. Despite his short stint at the airport, Washington launched several initiatives during his time there including the Vision 100 strategy to improve the airport’s facilities and operations in anticipation of 100 million annual passengers within 10 years, and the Equity in Infrastructure programme which he co-founded to create contracting opportunities for historically under-utilised businesses.

While he is relatively new to aviation, Washington has experience in the transportation industry, having held the role of CEO at Regional Transportation District for five years before becoming CEO at LA Metro from 2015 to 2021. He is a disabled veteran and served for 24 years as Command Sergeant Major.

If appointed he will take over from Billy Nolen, who has been serving as acting administrator since April this year. Nolen, who previously served as the FAA’s associate administrator for aviation safety, took over a month after Steve Dickson stepped down suddenly in March, just halfway through his five-year term. Politico reported that Washington was on Biden’s transition team for federal transportation policy and agencies and advised Biden’s 2020 campaign on infrastructure issues. The article included a statement from Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who said: “Phil’s deep expertise in transportation, his service in the military, and his track record helping Americans safely where they need to go, make him the right leader to help meet today’s aviation challenges and prepare for the future.”

Last week, the Biden administration announced it will award nearly $1bn from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law fund to 85 airports across the country to improve terminals of all sizes.

In September, the FAA announced it had awarded more than $100m for companies to aid development of fuel use, emissions and noise reducing technologies, in a bid to allow domestic aviation to attain net zero emissions by 2050. The news followed the announcement of a Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) Grand Challenge by the Biden administration to encourage the production of at least 3bn gallons of SAF per year by 2030.