1 of 3 | Federal Aviation Administrator nominee Michael Whitaker attends his Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation nomination hearing at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Wednesday. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo
Oct. 4 (UPI) -- Michael Whitaker, President Joe Biden's nominee for administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, testified before Congress on Wednesday during which he said the agency must be "ever vigilant" to prevent air crashes.
Whitaker, who previously served as deputy administrator of the FAA from 2013 to 2016, has been nominated to fill the role that has been vacant for 18 months.
He previously held a variety of roles at United Airlines, including as a senior vice president. He has also served as an assistant general counsel for Trans World Airlines and group chief executive of InterGlobe Enterprises, the company that operates India's IndiGo airline.
"If confirmed, my priority will be the safety of the flying public," Whitaker said in the hearing, according to a transcript provided by the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee.
"They have put their trust in the FAA to keep aviation the safest way to travel, and the world has looked to us for decades as the gold standard. To maintain that trust and that title, I would immediately focus on three things."
Whitaker assured he would finish implementing the remaining provisions of the 2020 Aircraft Certification, Safety, and Accountability Act. The FAA in March announced what Whitaker called "a new goal to end serious close calls."
"This is critical. We will not achieve this overnight, but it is urgent work that we must continue," he said.
Whitaker added that drones were still new when he previously worked at the FAA.
"Commercial space launches were rare and flying taxis were still only in cartoons. All of this has changed, and it requires that the agency be forward-looking, adapt quickly, and execute a plan for the future," he said.
According to the FAA, there were 41,498 flights from New York airports alone in which the lack of staffing of air traffic controllers led to delays. Whitaker said he is committed to reducing a backlog of training air traffic controllers and other challenges.
Whitaker has faced concerns in the past for crashing his own small plane in a botched landing in 2015 at Maryland's Freeway Airport when he was deputy administrator of the FAA.