Elwell Takes Over For Huerta As FAA Administrator

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Deputy Administrator Dan Elwell has taken over for Administrator Michael Huerta, whose term has now expired.

According to the FAA, Huerta was sworn in to office on Jan. 7, 2013, under the Obama administration. During his time at the agency, Huerta “worked to redefine the FAA’s regulatory relationship with the aviation industry to achieve greater levels of safety through increased collaboration and widespread sharing of data,” the agency says. “He also has led the agency’s efforts to modernize the nation’s air traffic control system through the NextGen program while preparing the way for the safe integration of commercial space operations and small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).”

The FAA says Huerta “led the agency’s efforts to integrate small UAS into the busiest and most complex airspace in the world.” This includes, according to the agency, drone registration and the Part 107 rulemaking for commercial UAS operations.

In a statement, Ed Bolen, president and CEO of the National Business Aviation Association, says, “Michael has been a steady leader at the FAA during a time of significant change. Under his stewardship, the agency has shown demonstrable progress in implementing NextGen, to ensure America’s continued global leadership in aviation; in rewriting Part 23 certification standards to ensure the safety and affordability of small aircraft; and laying the groundwork for the safe introduction of unmanned aircraft into the National Airspace System. These important priorities will be among the pillars of his legacy.”

Also applauding Huerta for his service is the Commercial Drone Alliance, which says in a statement that the administrator “recognized the unique safety and efficiency benefits of commercial drones, and he worked diligently over his tenure to move UAS policymaking forward.”

“Under his watch, the UAS registration rule went into effect, the Pathfinder Program to move UAS policy boundaries forward was launched, and Part 107 for the first time broadly authorized commercial drones into our National Airspace System,” the group adds. “Administrator Huerta valued collaboration and routinely sought out the views of the commercial drone industry and other relevant stakeholders around important UAS policymaking efforts.”

Elwell, now serving as acting administrator, was sworn in as the FAA’s deputy administrator in June 2017. Elwell, a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, previously served as FAA assistant administrator for policy, planning and environment. He was also president and managing partner of Elwell and Associates, an aviation consulting firm. Elwell was also senior vice president for safety, security and operations at Airlines For America and vice president at the Aerospace Industries Association.

According to former FAA Chief Counsel Gregory Walden, who also serves as aviation counsel to the Small UAV Coalition, Elwell “assumes this role at an exciting but critical juncture for the United States.”

“His storied career in aviation, penchant for decisive action and creativity are necessary during this formative time for the commercial UAS industry,” Walden states in a press release from the coalition.

The group also thanks Huerta for his “service during a transformative time in American aviation.”

The Commercial Drone Alliance adds, “While the commercial drone industry saw much progress under Administrator Huerta, policy challenges remain. Amongst other efforts, we eagerly await rulemakings from the FAA on remote identification and expanded operations, including to enable flights over people, beyond visual line of sight and at night.  In this same collaborative spirit, the Commercial Drone Alliance looks forward to working with Acting Administrator Dan Elwell to continue to open the skies for commercial drones.”


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