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Dickson Sworn in as New FAA Administrator

Former Delta Senior Vice President of Flight Operations Stephen Dickson was sworn in as administrator of the FAA by U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao on Aug. 12.

Steve Dickson, former senior vice president of flight operations for Delta Air Lines, was sworn in as the FAA administrator by Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao on Aug. 12.

Dickson is a former U.S. Air Force officer and F-15 fighter pilot, a 1979 Airforce Academy Graduate and a graduate of the Georgia State University College of Law.

In his role at Delta, Dickson was responsible for the safety and operational performance of Delta’s global flight operations, as well as pilot training, crew resources, crew scheduling and regulatory compliance. He also flew in line operations as an A320 captain and previously flew the Boeing 727, 737, 757 and 767 during his career.

In his remarks at the swearing in ceremony at DOT headquarters, Dickson thanked President Trump for the nomination, Secretary Chao for her support during the nomination process and Dan Elwell (who was briefly a classmate of Dickson’s at the Air Force Academy and has served as acting administrator since last January; he will continue to serve as deputy administrator) for his “strong, principled leadership during a very challenging time in the agency’s history.”

“The U.S. aviation system is the safest, most dynamic and innovative in the world, largely due to the collaborative approach to safety championed by the FAA and shared by various segments of the industry,” Dickson said during ceremony. “While we have earned [the public’s] trust through our robust approach to safety, the job is not done. In fact, it is never done. We all have to work together to retain – and in places, restore – that trust.”

“The public, and all those who work in American aviation, should know that FAA will continue to lead as a values-driven organization,” Dickson said. “Our highest and most important value is safety – this cannot be compromised. A lesson I learned in my service to our country in the Air Force, and will bring to my leadership of the FAA, is that safety is a journey and not a destination. It’s a journey that we must embark upon with renewed vigor each and every day.”

In reference to the biggest issue on Dickson’s plate as he assumes the reins at FAA – the grounding of the Boeing MAX aircraft – he said that, “this plane will not fly in commercial service until I am completely assured that it is safe to do so. FAA is following no timeline in returning the aircraft to service. Rather, we are going where the facts lead us and diligently ensuring that all technology and training is present and correct before the plane returns to passenger service.”

Dickson said that the foundation of any safety program is a just culture that “places an extremely high value on front-line employee reporting.” With that in mind, he stated his commitment to collaboration between operators, regulators and labor and said he would do everything is his power to “walk the walk” on employee safety reporting programs and “ensure this same philosophy permeates all sectors of the aviation system.”

He also committed the agency to “continuous improvement” and maintaining the highest levels of safety while adapting to technological advancements will be a key part of the FAA’s success. “What we did yesterday will simply not be good enough tomorrow,” Dickson said.

For its part, ARSA is urging the new administrator to focus in several key areas:

(1) Support and enhance efforts to grow the aviation workforce, stand up the grant program established by the 2018 FAA reauthorization law, support industry efforts to reconsider every “pathway” through which maintenance professionals progress and modernize the standards by which the agency oversees maintenance training and measures competency.
(2) Maintain the collaboration among between regulators and the regulated community to identify, assess and mitigate risk.
(3) Commit to regulatory consistency.
(4) Stand up to political and media pressure and focus on initiatives that achieve the highest possible level of safety, based on risk, while minimizing additional burdens on industry.

ARSA looks forward to working with Administrator Dickson in the weeks and months ahead to move the maintenance industry’s agenda forward.

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