Acting Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) chief Billy Nolen announced Friday that he will be stepping down from his leadership post, leaving the spot vacant ahead of increased summer travel.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Nolen sent a letter to agency employees saying that he plans to leave his post over the summer, a position that he has held since March 2022. His departure comes as the Biden administration has struggled to nominate a permanent candidate to lead the agency, after President Biden’s top pick Phil Washington withdrew his name from consideration last month after facing GOP criticism.
“Now it is time for a new captain to guide the FAA,” Nolen wrote in letter, according to the Journal. He added that he notified Buttigieg about his plans, and that he will leave “as a new nominee is named this summer.”
“Billy is a tremendous leader, a true expert, and a dedicated public servant,” Buttigieg said in a statement to the Journal.
Many Republican leaders, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), said that Washington was not qualified enough to become the permanent FAA administrator. Cruz thanked Nolen in a statement Friday, saying that he hopes Biden’s next nominee will have similar experience as Nolen does.
“I want to thank Billy Nolen for his leadership at the FAA & his steadfast dedication to aviation safety,” Cruz tweeted. “I wish him well in his future endeavors, & I hope @POTUS acts swiftly to appoint a nominee who will bring the same level of experience & commitment to service as Mr. Nolen.”
Nolen served as the FAA’s Associate Administrator for Aviation Safety before taking up the acting administrator role last year. Before going to the FAA, he served in multiple leadership positions at various airlines, according to his government biography.