New FAA Head Approved By Senate

January 2, 2013

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The US Senate has approved a number of key White House nominations to regulatory agencies, including the president's choice for the top job at the Federal Aviation Administration that had been vacant for over a year.

Michael Huerta was confirmed as FAA administrator for a five-year term after acting in that role since December 2011, when his predecessor resigned after being arrested and charged with drunk driving.

Huerta had been deputy administrator of the FAA since 2010 and acting administrator, overseeing a budget of about USD$16 billion and over 47,000 employees, since December 2011.

Randy Babbitt, the former FAA head, was arrested several miles from his home in Virginia, and charged with drunk driving on December 4, 2011. He resigned from the agency days later. The charge was later dismissed.

Huerta's appointment was hailed by industry groups, including airline operators, manufacturers, and pilots.

"Michael Huerta's proven leadership and clear grasp of the imperatives of NextGen make him the right choice to continue leading the FAA," Nicholas Calio, president of Airlines for America (A4A), said in a statement.

NextGen is the term used for the ongoing transformation of the US National Airspace System, in which ground-based air traffic control will shift to a satellite-based system of traffic management.

Huerta has overseen that multi-billion dollar effort, which is designed to allow more aircraft to fly closer together, reduce flight delays and lower fuel consumption.