The New York Times Online 02/17/2022
Authors: Madeleine Ngo and Chris Cameron
In a letter to staff, Mr. Dickson said it was “time to go home” to his family after a tumultuous period of more than two years leading the agency.
WASHINGTON — Steve Dickson, the administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, will resign at the end of next month, the agency said on Wednesday night.
The announcement by Mr. Dickson, who was appointed by President Donald J. Trump, cut short a five-year term after what had been a tumultuous period for the F.A.A. In a letter to staff, Mr. Dickson said it was “time to go home” to his family after 43 years in the aviation industry and more than two years leading the agency.
“Over the past several years, my family has been a source of tremendous encouragement, strength and support,” Mr. Dickson said. “Nevertheless, after sometimes long and unavoidable periods of separation from my loved ones during the pandemic, it is time to devote my full time and attention to them.”
He said the F.A.A. was in a “better place” than it was two years ago, adding that the agency had reinvigorated its safety culture, overcome some of its toughest challenges and “built a stronger, more collaborative, inclusive and open culture.”
Mr. Dickson had sometimes come under heavy criticism from lawmakers as he responded to a series of challenges at the agency, but on Wednesday night, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg praised him as “the F.A.A.’s steady and skilled captain.”
“His tenure has been marked by steadfast commitment to the F.A.A.’s safety mission and the 45,000 employees who work tirelessly every day to fulfill it,” Mr. Buttigieg said in a statement.
Mr. Dickson, a former pilot who rose to become senior vice president of flight operations at Delta Air Lines and a U.S. Air Force Academy graduate, took charge of the F.A.A. as the agency was reeling after two deadly crashes that grounded Boeing ’s 737 Max jet for almost two years.
Congress and safety experts condemned the agency for lapses in oversight that helped lead to the crashes, which killed 346 people. Mr. Dickson, who took over the agency months after the Max was grounded, oversaw revisions to the aircraft that allowed the fleet to eventually resume commercial flights .
He then had to navigate a cascade of disruptions to air travel from the Covid-19 pandemic, including new airline safety regulations , travel restrictions, a severe decline in commercial air traffic and a surge in unruly passengers that has led some airline executives to call for a federal no-fly list for those convicted of disrupting flights.
The agency had to confront concerns that a nationwide expansion of 5G cellular networks could interfere with sensitive aircraft instruments. The F.A.A. negotiated a compromise with cellular providers in January to partly delay the implementation of 5G service near airport runways.
Mr. Dickson was confirmed in an unusually divided Senate vote in July 2019 after some Democrats raised concerns about his involvement in a whistle-blower case at Delta. The agency had been without permanent leadership for more than a year and a half before his confirmation.
Representative Peter A. DeFazio, an Oregon Democrat and the chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said that although he “didn’t always see eye to eye” with Mr. Dickson, he thanked him for his leadership during a challenging time for the agency.
“President Biden must now nominate a new leader committed to the highest standards of aviation safety,” Mr. DeFazio said in a statement.