Dickson’s Nomination to Head FAA Stalls in Senate

Nominee reportedly named in lawsuit filed by Delta pilot

Steve Dickson
Dickson apparently failed to mention a lawsuit he was involved in while still Delta's senior vice president of flight operations.Courtesy Delta Air Lines

The final nomination vote of Steve Dickson, President Trump's nominee to run the FAA, has been delayed while a Senate committee investigates the nominee's role in a previously unreported whistleblower complaint filed by a Delta Air Lines Airbus 330 pilot while Dickson was still Delta Airline's senior vice president of flight operations. Dickson's Senate nomination hearing was held May 15.

Delta pilot Karlene Petitt sued Delta in a pending Department of Labor administrative action claiming the airline retaliated against her following a pilot fatigue concern she raised in a 2016 report to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Petitt, who holds a Ph.D. in aviation, says after she filed the report, the airline sent her to a Delta-hired psychiatrist for an examination that discovered the pilot suffered from bipolar disorder, a medically disqualifying condition for a cockpit crewmember. The action removed Petitt from flying status for more than a year and a half. Subsequent psychiatric examinations found Petitt did not suffer from bipolar disorder and she was subsequently returned to flying status.

CNN reported that Dickson said he was ultimately responsible for sending Petitt to the airline-sponsored psychiatrist, a move he called "a sound course of action." Dickson apparently failed to report his involvement in the lawsuit when he filled out his Senate nomination questionnaire. Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS), the nomination committee chairman told CNN, "Since holding the nomination hearing with Mr. Dickson, new information has come to the committee's attention that merits further investigation. The committee has been reviewing this information and I have asked the Department of Transportation and the White House to do the same."

A Delta Air Line spokesman denied the company retaliated against Petitt and was said the pilot and novelist was referred for the more intensive medical evaluation after her behavior and statements related to the complaint raised questions about her fitness to fly. A White House spokesman told Politico "the White House has complete confidence in [Dickson's] nomination and expects him to be confirmed."