Senate votes 98-0 to confirm Biden's nominee to run the Federal Aviation Administration

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate voted 98-0 to approve President Joe Biden’s nominee to lead the Federal Aviation Administration on Tuesday, ending a span of nearly 19 months in which the agency was without a Senate-confirmed chief.

Michael Whitaker is a former deputy FAA administrator and most recently served as chief operating officer of a Hyundai affiliate that is developing an air taxi.

Whitaker will take over an agency that faces many challenges, including a surge in close calls between planes at major airports, a shortage of air traffic controllers, and aging technology that resulted in a brief nationwide halt in flights in January.

Whitaker's confirmation seemed assured last week, when members of the Senate Commerce Committee endorsed him unanimously.

On the Senate floor Tuesday, committee chair Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said Whitaker's priorities will be to "build a strong safety culture, attract new talent and keep pace with technology transformation.”

Whitaker was Biden's second choice for the job. The nomination of Denver International Airport CEO Phil Washington languished for months, then failed to get out of the Commerce Committee because of opposition from Republicans and independent Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.

The FAA has been without a Senate-confirmed administrator since March 2022, when Stephen Dickson stepped down midway through his five-year term.