September 21, 2023

Duckworth Meets with FAA Administrator Nominee


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL)—member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation (CST) and Chair of the CST Subcommittee on Aviation Safety, Operations and Innovation—met virtually with Federal Aviation Administrator nominee Michael Whitaker to discuss many critical issues facing our aviation industry. During their meeting, Duckworth reiterated her strong disapproval of efforts to weaken the 1,500-hour rule and jeopardize the safety of the flying public amid a spike in near-miss incidents in our commercial aviation system.

“Our nation needs a strong FAA leader who will reject complacency and aggressively confront this year’s aviation safety crisis, which has too often consisted of dangerous runway incursions and alarming near-miss collisions where catastrophic loss of life was barely averted,” said Duckworth. “The safety of our aviation system has been impacted by the surge in air travel that followed mass buyouts of experienced pilots and air traffic controller retirements, and I commend President Biden for nominating an experienced FAA Deputy Administrator who possesses significant expertise in national airspace system modernization and air traffic operations. I appreciated learning about Mr. Whitaker’s commitment to protecting our nation’s strong safety rules to prevent a repeat of the deadly Colgan crash, to solving air traffic control staffing and training challenges and to enhancing aircraft certification so we can help ensure the flawed Boeing 737 MAX rubberstamping never happens again. I look forward to delving deeper into these issues as Mr. Whitaker’s confirmation process moves forward.”

As one of the authors of the bipartisan FAA Reauthorization Act of 2023, Duckworth successfully secured several provisions that will improve safety for consumers, expand the aviation workforce and enhance protections for travelers with disabilities. As introduced, the FAA reauthorization bill would extend FAA’s funding and authorities through the Fiscal Year 2028 without degrading pilot certification standards.

Throughout FAA reauthorization negotiations, Duckworth has been a fierce advocate of the 1,500-hour rule, having delivered an impassioned speech on the Senate floor on the importance of upholding the strong pilot certification standards and warning her colleagues of the deadly consequences of complacency in aviation. Duckworth’s efforts on this follow a recent surge in disturbing near-misses and close calls that prompted the FAA to hold an unprecedented safety summit and spurred an ongoing investigation by the NTSB to determine whether these frightening incidents may be precursor events that, left unaddressed, are a sign that the Part 121 system is vulnerable to a horrific crash.