Fourteen GOP lawmakers who are pilots are urging President Biden to withdraw his nominee to lead the Federal Aviation Administration because they say he has “zero aviation experience.”
“While Mr. Washington honorably served our nation in the Army, he did not serve in an aviation unit,” wrote the lawmakers Thursday in a letter to the president. “He is not a pilot, has zero aviation safety experience, and is entirely unqualified to lead the federal agency responsible for keeping the flying public safe.”
The GOP pilots pointed out that federal law requires the FAA administrator to have “experience in a field directly related to aviation” and said that Phil Washington, Biden’s nominee, does not meet the requirement.
“The FAA cannot afford to be led by someone who needs on-the-job training, especially at a time when our aviation system is facing tremendous safety challenges such as multiple near misses by airlines and the first nationwide ground stop of aircraft since 9/11,” wrote the representatives.
In a letter, the signatories said they had logged thousands of flight hours between them, including some military flights. However, they said Washington “has never flown a plane, never worked for an airline or an aircraft manufacturer, and never served as an air traffic controller.”
“His aviation experience is limited to working at the Denver airport for less than two years,” wrote the group, referring to his current role as the Denver International Airport CEO. “In that role, Mr. Washington is primarily responsible for non-aviation matters, including the airport’s restaurants, parking, buildings, and shops.
The letter was signed by Senators Mike Rounds of South Dakota and Ted Budd of North Carolina, as well as 12 “congressional aviators.”
Washington’s lack of experience led to tough questioning by Republicans on the Senate Commerce Committee. Texas GOP Senator Ted Cruz urged senators to look into his background more and called Washington “woefully unqualified.”
Last week, Cruz predicted that the nominee would have trouble winning enough votes for confirmation.
Vote set for next week on Washington’s confirmation
The Senate Committee is set to vote next week on Washington’s confirmation. If he is successful in a committee vote, his nomination will go to the floor of the Senate. On Wednesday, Senate Democrats rallied behind President Biden’s long-awaited pick to lead the FAA while GOP Senators vowed to block the nomination.
President Biden nominated Washington to lead the FAA over seven months ago.
The FAA has been without an administrator confirmed by the Senate for almost a year amid several challenges, most frequently struggling with a high-profile system meltdown and near collisions.
At a Wednesday Commerce hearing, Washington told senators that he would work to quickly address critical issues, including a flood of drones entering the airspace along with staffing shortages at the FAA.
“However, to accomplish all these things, we need permanent leadership at the top of the FAA to address the challenges that we have seen in the last several years,” said Washington.