Polly Trottenberg Named Acting Head of FAA

She will replace Billy Nolen, who plans to join eVTOL startup Archer Aviation in the coming weeks.

Polly Trottenberg will be replacing Billy Nolen as FAA acting administrator. [Credit: Shutterstock]

On Friday, President Joe Biden announced Deputy Transportation Secretary Polly Trottenberg will be the new interim head of the FAA. 

Trottenberg will replace Billy Nolen, who plans to join eVTOL startup Archer Aviation in the coming weeks. Having served as New York City’s transportation commissioner from 2014 through 2020, Trottenberg boasts decades of experience in the public sector. She has served as a legislative staffer in the U.S. Senate for 12 years and worked for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

However, Trottenberg does not have any apparent aviation experience—something that prevented Biden’s former pick to head the FAA, Phil Washington, from securing the nomination. As it stands, the FAA has been without a Senate-confirmed permanent leader since Steve Dickson, appointed by President Donald Trump, stepped down in 2022

In a Thursday press release, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg wrote, “I am pleased to announce a team of experienced leaders to guide the FAA…and I have full confidence in Polly’s steady hand during the search for a permanent administrator.”

Without a permanent leader, many recent aviation issues have fallen on Buttigieg—including air traffic control staffing shortages, flight delays, technical outages, and several close calls at U.S. airports.

In addition to Trottenberg’s appointment, Biden will also name Katie Thomson, the FAA’s chief of staff, as the deputy administrator and Keith Washington, the agency’s deputy assistant secretary for the administration, to serve as acting chief of staff.

Following Friday’s news, National Air Transportation Association (NATA) president and CEO Curt Castagna praised the moves.

“With both the Senate and House slated to mark up their respective FAA reauthorization bills next week, proven leadership at the FAA is both timely and welcome, and we applaud the Biden administration for taking action,” Castagna said in a statement. “Trottenberg and Thomson’s years of experience at the DOT will provide stability as the spotlight continues to shine on aviation in the coming months. NATA looks forward to fulfilling its mission as an educator and safety advocate for aviation businesses in advancing these discussions.”

The White House noted it is conducting a national search for a new head administrator nominee.

Amelia Walsh
Amelia WalshContributor
Amelia Walsh is a private pilot who enjoys flying her family’s Columbia 350. She is based in Colorado and loves all things outdoors including skiing, hiking, and camping.

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