Administrator Huerta’s 8 years at FAA disproved five myths–republished for Administrator (designate) Dickson

Administrator Huerta
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The Head of the FAA Is Leaving Saturday — With No Official Replacement

Huerta defies the traditional ideal profile

Longest term, 8 years, and much accomplished


This headline is not 100% accurate[1], but it is the only lede which discusses Administrator Huerta’s conclusion of his term[2] as the head of the FAA WITHOUT tying it to POTUS’ credit claim for the 2017 aviation safety record. Including his time as Acting Administrator (delay due to the Senate’s institutional lethargy),

Acting AOA=1


the Honorable Mr. Huerta set a record for the longest occupation of the big office on the 10th floor at 800 Independence.

The official picture of now Citizen Huerta appropriately shows him smiling. Having run the gauntlet of his eight years at the Helm, he should be smiling now. Here are a few of his tests:


The aviation associations (A4A, AAAE, ACI, AFA, AIA, ALPA, GAMA. NATA, NBAA) all issued press releases back in 2013 profusely praising President Obama, the Senate and Mr. Huerta on getting Advice and Consent on his nomination to be AOA-1. Maybe all of these organizations were unaware that as of January 8 12:01am, his term was over or maybe some disagreed with his decisions, but as of January 7, 2018 noon, only two had issued press releases recognizing his contributions to aviation safety:

Oddly, one might have assumed that the BA/GA community might have harbored resentments over SMO, but no, they issued releases praising his 8 years. Others?

Mr. Huerta, whose name appropriately in Spanish means “farm”, broke some ground during his term. Here are a few of the myths which he disproved:

Huerta in cockpit


  1. The Administrator “must be a pilot”; Huerta was not and his record of judgments on significant regulatory achievements, which heretofore have been thought to require cockpit time, shows that a good AOA-1 need not have a license.
  2. A corollary to #1 is that a pilot prerequisite was needed to be able to question the judgment of the career employees. At the discussion table of one Secretary of Huerta and GilliganTransportation, if the Administrator made it clear that the proposal was primarily the initiative of the career staff, it would not get approval. The transition from a goal of 100% surveillance of certificate holders to a risk-based distribution of assets model (SMS) represented an endorsement of a concept which Associate Administrator Gilligan brought to Huerta and he endorsed.



3.“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Political employees are not rewarded for taking risks, for altering what had been proven for decades of safety. The US record for general aviation, particularly for the certification of aircraft, is unequaled around the world. Industry argued that the old Part 23 strictures were stifling development and growth (similarly on the 3rd Class medical). While both NPRMs consumed more time than the proponents wanted, Huerta saw that these innovations were implemented.

4.“Technology is out of Control”-This aphorism has been repeated so many times that it is etched in the marble wall OIG entrance and has fostered a movement intent on moving the ATC to the private sector. While there are valid complaints about the progress of NextGen implementation, one must recognize that the FAA’s current board of directors (the US Congress) shares some blame.Huerta and NextGen


With difficult procurement rules, changing specifications/requirements from industry/controllers, a system spread over 7 time zones, managing multiple contractors, modifying a system which must remain operational 100% of the time and perhaps the most complex civil technology project in US History, Administrator Huerta has made significant progress in these specific projects:


Automatic Dependent Surveillance–Broadcast
The NextGen successor to radar surveillance

Providing the air traffic control platforms for NextGen improvements

Data Communications
Digital text-based supplement to voice communication

NAS Voice System
More power and flexibility in controller-pilot voice communications

Performance Based Navigation
Greater navigational precision and accuracy

System Wide Information Management
The backbone of NextGen digital data delivery

Decision Support Systems
Optimizing air traffic flow with automated tools

Environment and Energy
Reducing aviation’s environmental footprint

Enhancing the world’s safest aviation system


  1. To be an effective Administrator, he/she must have great, preexisting contacts with the White House, the Secretary and Congress. Huerta did not come to 800 Independence with a big Rolodex filled with power people. [He was a key member of Mitt Romney’s Olympic team.] He functioned well and over time developed credibility with the Congress based on his track record of delivering on his promises. His visible relationships with 3 Secretaries (LaHood, Foxx and Chao) appeared to be good and included the 1st Administrator appointed by a Democrat to serve for a Republican. His year with that cross-politics went better than anyone could have expected.


Even a harsh critic must accept that the Administrator has managed to keep labor strife out of the headlines. In fact, his positive personnel leadership earned the FAA a plaudit as a federal agency with positive programs protecting women from harassment.

Given his international portfolio at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, more was expected of him in advancing the US aviation flag overseas.





Perhaps the most impressive achievement during his 8+ years at the FAA has been his prestidigitation. His quick hands have magically avoided any public position on privatization.



In summary, Administrator Huerta has performed the demanding, difficult task with high marks. Traditional observers would have bet that this would not have been a successful term; it was.





PS1 commend to you this article:

Year in Review: Culture Change Marks Huerta’s FAA Legacy

PS2 Acting Administrator Elwell is qualified for the top FAA position. Anyone casting aspersions on his past airline affiliations really have not carefully Elwellstudied his resume.





[1] Technically, as has occurred multiple times in the past, FAA Deputy Administrator Daniel K. Elwell will serve as Acting FAA Administrator upon the conclusion of Administrator Michael Huerta’s term.  

[2] The link associated with the Administrator’s name is to the FAA most recently revised biography and the accomplishments, well written and bereft of fake news, are impressive. If you are not familiar with his work, please review it. To shorten this post, it will be assumed that the reader is familiar with his record.

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1 Comment on "Administrator Huerta’s 8 years at FAA disproved five myths–republished for Administrator (designate) Dickson"

  1. Add NATA to list of aviation associations thanking Administrator Huerta for his service–

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