The president has been notoriously inept on the human resources front, failing to fill a number of important positions across the government. The positions left open include an array of spots in the State Department, positions that have been opened up thanks at least in part to the departure or firing of numerous top career officials.
Even still, the president has not held back when it comes to taking credit for essentially anything positive that he can elucidate. For instance, although there are other factors at play, the president has claimed responsibility for the sudden announcement from the North Korean leader that he is open to talks with the South Koreans in an effort to ease tensions.
Similarly, the president rushed to take credit for the fact that 2017 was the safest year on record for passengers on American operated commercial passenger jets — even though, it now turns out, he was not prepared for the head of the FAA’s term to expire, as it is doing when Saturday dawns. Rather than have someone nominated for the position, the current Deputy Director of the FAA, former lobbyist and pilot Daniel Elwell will begin serving as Acting FAA Administrator for the time being.
National attention on the aviation industry increased with the already mentioned recent tweet from the president, in which he took credit for commercial passenger jets having the safest year on record in 2017. There were aircraft deaths recorded during the year, but not on commercial passenger jets operated under U.S. jurisdiction. Deaths occurred on smaller, regional aircraft elsewhere in the world.
The president earned widespread ridicule for his tweet because he has done essentially nothing to warrant his taking credit for no deaths on U.S. operated commercial passenger jets in 2017, and yet, here he is, doing so anyway. When pressed, a White House spokesman pointed to the president’s stalled plan to privatize the nation’s air traffic control system and to his implementation of increased pre-flight screening ahead of foreign flights going into the U.S.
Elwell, making his assuming the position of Acting FAA Administrator fit in line with demonstrated Trump Administration values, used to be a lobbyist for the airline industry, having served as a senior vice president for safety, security, and operations with Airlines for America.
In a statement, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao praised Elwell’s background as a pilot.
As she put it:
‘Dan’s background as a military and commercial pilot and past leadership positions in FAA and the aviation sector ensures a seamless transition to continue the important mission of the FAA.’
The outgoing FAA Administrator, Michael Huerta, became the Deputy FAA Administrator in 2011, when the agency’s then-head was arrested on a drunk driving charge.
Huerta’s replacement Elwell, besides having a past as a pilot and a lobbyist for the airline industry, served in the FAA from 2006 through 2008 and led the Trump transition team’s efforts on transportation related issues.
It’s ironic for the president to claim to be a champion of airline safety while simply relying on procedural mechanisms that put a lobbyist in charge of the agency responsible for regulating the interests he used to lobby for.
Featured Image via David McNew/ Getty Images