We Meet the Administrator
When former administrator Randy Babbitt departed the FAA unexpectedly earlier this year the man quickly named to take his place as interim administrator was Michael Huerta, the former deputy administrator.
Unlike Babbitt, who was a pilot, Huerta’s experience is largely political and administrative. He has a history of taking on big jobs, including at some of the busiest ports in the country and the Salt Lake Olympic games, and succeeding at them.
Deputy administrator is one of the few positions in the FAA that is subject to Senate confirmation, so Huerta has been through the process before. Whether he gets confirmation or not is a tough question to answer and might depend on which candidate gets elected in November.
Regardless of who wins the battleground states and gets to make the nomination calls, Huerta is a nominee who makes sense. During my meeting with him, I found him to be sensitive to the needs of GA in a way that that’s not easy to pull off for a public servant who has many masters. Of course his real boss will be the president, and whether that is Governor Romney or President Obama, Huerta has much to offer the administration as a pragmatic yet goal oriented leader who knows business yet can deal with the realities of the beltway. He’ll also be able to deal with Congress, regardless of its makeup, in a way that largely puts aside partisan politics. He’ll also be able to be responsive to GA in a way that the airlines can live with. These are all critical skills for an administrator in these increasingly contentious times.
Like Babbitt before him, Mr. Huerta talks tough when it comes to GA safety, making it clear that the administration expects pilots to take personal responsibility for safety, a message that resonates with our readers. When I asked him about user fees, he supported the president’s desire to be fiscally responsible (meaning, imposing such fees) but admitted that when he spoke to members of Congress, he didn’t hear much support for them. Likewise, he addressed the question of drones and the potential negative safety ramifications to GA in a no-nonsense way, saying that drones wouldn’t be accepted into our airspace regardless of the legislation until it is safe to let them do so.
Like it or not, the way the FAA functions has a big impact on pilots’ flying lives. Huerta knows the issues, knows his constituents and can balance the demands of Washington politics with the need to promote safety, access and modernization, while still being able to work productively with the people who aren’t always the best friends of general aviation.