FAA Administrator Steve Dickson to resign next month

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WASHINGTON — Steve Dickson, the administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, will step down at the end of next month, the agency announced Wednesday evening.

The announcement of Mr. Dickson, who was nominated by President Donald J. Trump, cut short a five-year term after what had been a tumultuous time for the FAA. In a letter to staff, Mr Dickson said it was “time to go home” to his family after 43 years in the aviation industry and more than two years at the helm of the agency.

“Over the past few years, my family has been a tremendous source of encouragement, strength and support,” said Mr. Dickson. “Nevertheless, after sometimes long and unavoidable periods of separation from my loved ones during the pandemic, it is time to devote all my time and attention to them.”

He said the FAA was in a “better place” than two years ago, adding that the agency had reinvigorated its safety culture, overcome some of its toughest challenges, and “built a stronger, more collaborative, inclusive and open”.

Mr Dickson had at times come under heavy criticism from lawmakers as he tackled a series of challenges at the agency, but on Wednesday night Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg praised him as “the captain stable and competent of the FAA”.

“His tenure was marked by an unwavering commitment to the FAA’s safety mission and the 45,000 employees who work tirelessly every day to fulfill it,” Buttigieg said in a statement.

Mr Dickson, a former pilot who became senior vice president of flight operations at Delta Air Lines and a graduate of the US Air Force Academy, took charge of the FAA as the agency reeled after two fatal crashes that grounded Boeing’s 737 Max jet for almost two years.

Congressional and security experts condemned the agency for oversight lapses that contributed to the crashes, which killed 346 people. Mr Dickson, who took over the agency months after the Max was grounded, oversaw overhauls to the plane that allowed the fleet to eventually resume commercial flights.

He then had to navigate a cascade of air travel disruptions from the Covid-19 pandemic, including new airline safety regulations, travel restrictions, a sharp drop in commercial air traffic and an increase in number of unruly passengers that has led some airline executives to call for a federal no-fly list for those convicted of disrupting flights.

The agency has faced concerns that a nationwide expansion of 5G cellular networks could interfere with sensitive aircraft instruments. The FAA brokered a compromise with cellphone providers in January to partially delay the implementation of 5G service near airport runways.

Mr. Dickson was confirmed in an unusually split Senate vote in July 2019 after some Democrats raised concerns about his involvement in a whistleblower case at Delta. The agency had been without permanent direction for more than a year and a half before its confirmation.

Rep. Peter A. DeFazio, an Oregon Democrat and chair of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said while he “didn’t always agree” with Mr Dickson, he thanked him for his leadership during a difficult time for the agency.

“President Biden must now appoint a new leader committed to the highest standards of aviation safety,” DeFazio said in a statement.

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