Biden will nominate a former Obama official to run the Federal Aviation Administration

Michael G. Whitaker, vice president of alliances, UAL Corp., testifies before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation regarding the United States and European Union Open Skies Agreement in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, February 8, 2006.

J. Carrier | Bloomberg | Getty Images

President Joe Biden will nominate a former Obama administration official to lead the Federal Aviation Administration after his first choice withdrew in the face of Republican opposition nearly six months ago.

The White House said Thursday that Biden will nominate Michael G. Whitaker, a former deputy administrator at the FAA, and currently the chief operating officer of a Hyundai affiliate working to develop an air taxi aircraft.

The FAA, which regulates airline safety and manages the nation’s airspace, has been run by back-to-back acting administrators since March 2022.

The FAA faces a number of challenges including a shortage of air traffic controllers, aging technology, and alarm over close calls between planes at major airports. In addition, Congress is deliberating over legislation that will direct the agency’s operations for the next five years.

Whitaker worked as a lawyer for TWA, which was absorbed by American Airlines, spent 15 years at United Airlines where he became a senior vice president and oversaw international and regulatory affairs, then moved to InterGlobe, a travel company in India.

Whitaker was deputy FAA administrator – a job that does not require Senate approval – from 2013 to 2016. He is currently the chief commercial officer for Supernal, a Hyundai subsidiary that is working on an electric-powered air taxi — which would need FAA certification to fly in the United States.

Last year, Biden nominated Denver International Airport CEO Phillip Washington, but he withdrew in March after his nomination stalled in the Senate Commerce Committee. Republicans and independent Kyrsten Sinema argued that Washington lacked adequate aviation experience — his background is mostly in city transit systems, having held the Denver airport job only since mid-2021.

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