This editorial ran in Aviation Week on July 10, 2023.

Every flight in the U.S., whether of a FedEx cargo aircraft or an American Airlines passenger airliner, requires a network of experts to load, taxi, take off, navigate and land safely. Every link in the chain must perform its duty skillfully for safe and efficient air travel.

America has excelled at this process for a century, resulting in the U.S. aviation industry comprising 5% of the country’s GDP and sustaining more than 2 million jobs. Aviation is a valuable sector of our economy, and the entire industry rests on the authority of the FAA to set the rules and policies that govern the skies.

The FAA is responsible for the safety of travelers and is vital to our nation’s economy, which is why it is deeply concerning that the agency has not had a permanent, Senate-approved leader—the FAA administrator—for more than 450 days. This vacancy is having a ripple effect not just in aviation but across multiple sectors and industries.

The FAA stands at an important juncture as it navigates an evolving environment. Demand for air travel has returned at an unprecedented pace following the COVID-19 pandemic, and new and evolving aircraft are rapidly being introduced into our National Airspace System. Severe and sometimes chaotic and dangerous disruptions continue to face Americans attempting to fly during holidays.

A record number of air travelers and consumers dealt with thousands of canceled flights and tens of thousands of flight delays nationwide over this Fourth of July long weekend. We have also seen near collisions on the runway and emergency landings. To meet these current challenges, the FAA requires modernization and good leadership throughout the agency.

The current FAA Reauthorization Act is set to expire this fall. I have worked with my colleagues to write the legislation to reauthorize the FAA while also using my position on the Senate Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee on transportation, housing and urban development and related agencies to provide the FAA with the right resources. We must conduct proper oversight of the FAA and provide the agency with the tools it needs to evolve and excel.

However, even with new resources and modernized authorities, these are just words on paper without an FAA administrator. The agency is too critical to be guided by interim leaders. We need a confirmed administrator. 

The U.S. has long been a leader in aerospace by leaning into challenges and opportunities. Innovation, fostered with appropriate safety oversight by the government, can help cement the U.S. as a competitor on the global scale.

While Congress can help ensure resources, craft authorizing language and provide the FAA with most of the tools it needs to succeed, the agency must have a leader with a steady hand at the helm.

The White House must act to nominate an individual with extensive experience in transportation and aviation, an understanding of the role the FAA plays in consumer safety and knowledge of the business models by which aviation works in the U.S. and around the world.

I urge the president to put forward an experienced nominee so the FAA can reduce disruptions for air travelers, ensure the safety of our skies and guide us into the next era of aviation. 

Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) is the ranking member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee’s subcommittee on aviation safety, operations and innovation and sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee on transportation, housing and urban development and related agencies.