U.S. DOT Names Billy Nolen Acting FAA Administrator

On Saturday, March 26, 2022 the FAA named Asociate Administrator for Aviation Safety Billy Nolen Acting FAA Administrator.  Nolen will step into the role when Trump-appointed Administrator Steve Dickson leaves at the close of March.  Dickson, appointed in July of 2019,  has stepped down before the end of his 5 year appointment.  The Biden-Harris Administration is currently searching for a nominee to become the permanent Administrator: an appointed position confirmed by the U.S. Senate.  

Deputy Administrator Bradley Mims will also take on an expanded role during this interim period, focusing on the FAA’s workforce and the nation’s airports,” says the FAA announcement.

The FAA Administrator is a critical influence for the drone industry.  In a letter to the DOT concerning the choice of FAA Administrator, the Commercial Drone Alliance points out that the commercial drone industry can help the current administration meet its goals – but that the FAA must move more quickly on drone regulation to realize the benefits of uncrewed systems.

“New FAA leadership presents the opportunity for seizing on the challenges of tomorrow and redoubling efforts to prepare for the rapidly changing nature of our airspace and its users,” says the letter.

Billy Nolen: A Veteran of Aviation Safety

“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. “We are grateful to Steve for his service and to Billy and Brad for stepping up to lead the FAA during this critical time.”

Before joining the FAA, Nolen was vice president for Safety, Security and Quality for WestJet Airlines in Canada.

Prior to his employment at WestJet, Nolen held safety leadership positions at Qantas Airways, Airlines for America and American Airlines. He began his professional career in 1989 as a pilot for American, earning type ratings on Boeing 757, 767 and McDonnell Douglas MD-80 aircraft. He later managed the carrier’s Aviation Safety Action Program (ASAP) and rose through the management ranks to become the airline’s managing director for corporate safety and regulatory affairs.

In 2015, Nolen became senior vice president for safety, security and operations at Airlines for America, a trade group that represents the airlines. From 2018 to 2019, he served as executive manager for group safety and health at Qantas. He moved to WestJet in 2020.

In addition to his professional aviation experience, Nolen served tours of duty in the U.S. Army as an airplane and helicopter pilot and safety officer. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Professional Aeronautics from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, as well as specialized aviation safety management certificates from the University of Southern California, United States Army Safety Center and the United States Navy Postgraduate School.

FAA Deputy Administrator Bradley Mims brings over 40 years of experience in transportation and has served in leadership roles in both the public and private sector. He served at the FAA under the Clinton Administration, as President and CEO of the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO) and has played a vital role as FAA Deputy Administrator during the Biden-Harris Administration.

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