Trump names new FAA boss with Boeing grounding as backdrop

President Donald Trump on Tuesday nominated a former Delta Airlines executive to become the new administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration as the country’s airlines continue coping with the grounding of Boeing 737 Max jets.

The White House said Trump was naming Steve Dickson, who retired recently as Delta’s vice president for flight operations, to the FAA role.

The agency had been without a permanent chief for more than a year. The administrator role was filled in an acting capacity by Daniel Elwell for 14 months.

Dickson had been eyed by the White House for months to take the job, though action on his nomination wasn’t taken until Tuesday. Trump made the selection before the current controversy surrounding the grounding of the Boeing 737 Max jets, the aircraft involved in two deadly crashes over the past several months.

Last week, Trump announced from the White House the jets wouldn’t be permitted to fly until Boeing determines they are safe. His announcement came ahead of any official word from the FAA, and caught some officials off-guard.

Until the announcement, the agency had insisted the planes were safe. Later, officials said new evidence from the scene of a crash in Ethiopia led them to follow the lead of other nations in grounding the plane.

In assuming the post — which carries a term of five years — Dickson will come to work for a President with distinct views of air travel and aviation.

A longtime user of a private Boeing 757, Trump at one point wanted to name his personal pilot, John Dunkin, to the FAA job but faced questions about Dunkin’s qualifications.

As the Boeing crisis unfolded, Trump lamented on Twitter that planes were “becoming far to complex to fly,” and advocated for removing some of the technology that has been installed inside cockpits.

Dickson is a pilot himself, who began his career in the military and later flew commercial aircraft including the Boeing 727, 737, 757 and 767 planes. In his post at Delta he was responsible for flight safety and pilot training.