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Billy Nolen Named Acting FAA Chief

The airline industry vet is a relative newcomer to the FAA. And there are concerns.

Captain Billy Nolen, a former American Airlines pilot type-rated in the Boeing 757 and 767 and McDonnell Douglas MD-80, has been named Acting Administrator of the FAA in the wake of Steve Dickson’s premature retirement, which officially happens this week.

Nolen, a former Army pilot and graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, has a reputation for a dedication to safety, and presently serves as the Associate Administrator for Aviation Safety in the FAA, which includes “over one million registered aircraft, over one thousand approved manufacturers, over one million active pilots, and over 50,000 flights every day,” according to the Agency’s site. In addition to the Army and American Airlines, Nolen worked for trade group Airlines for America, the Qantas Group, and Canada’s WestJet starting in 2020, in a career spanning beyond three decades and counting.

Nolen appears to be a strong candidate, but he’s not an ideal one for light general aviation stakeholders. Despite an overall sterling résumé, his experience seems to be entirely at the airline and military level. Moreover, his work at Airlines for America is concerning. The registered lobbying group supported at various times privatizing air traffic control and implementing users’ fees for aviation taxes instead of a federal aviation fuel tax

Nolen is a relative newcomer to the FAA and will be joined by Deputy FAA Administrator Bradley Mims, who will take on expanded responsibility to focus on the FAA’s workforce and the nation’s airports during the search for a permanent Administrator.

The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) responded favorably to Nolen’s appointment. “Billy Nolen is widely respected for his aviation experience, leadership skills and deep commitment to safety,” said NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen. “He and Deputy Administrator Bradley Mims make a very strong team, and we look forward to working with them both toward our mutual goal of preserving our nation’s leadership in aviation.”

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