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For last 26 months was senior FAA political appointee

Very Difficult to be “ACTING”

Deserved ATCA’s most distinguished award



The Air Traffic Control Association’s highest honor is awarded to FAA Acting Administrator Daniel K. Elwell for his exceptional service to the National Airspace System.

An aviation leader with more than 40 years’ experience, Mr. Elwell has led modernization efforts for the US National Airspace System – the largest and most complex in the world – all while keeping it the safest. He has tirelessly promoted industry collaboration and exhibited grace under pressure in the midst of every opportunity and pitfall of aviation’s third golden age of new entrants and emerging technologies.

Elwell was appointed deputy administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) by President Trump in June 2017, and he began serving as Acting Administrator upon the Hon. Michael Huerta’s retirement in January 2018.

Prior to serving as Acting Administrator, Elwell held senior positions with Airlines for America (A4A), Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), for US Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, the late Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK), and for the FAA as assistant administrator for policy, planning, and environment.

While Mr. Elwell has steadfastly led all aspects of the aviation industry and its workforce, his first love is flying. After graduating from the US Air Force Academy, Lieutenant Colonel Elwell earned more than 6,000 flight hours in the US Air Force and US Air Force Reserve, including combat service during Operation Desert Storm. Following his active duty military service, Mr. Elwell was a commercial pilot with American Airlines for 16 years and managing director for the airline’s international and government affairs office.

In accepting the Glen A. Gilbert Memorial Award, Mr. Elwell joins aviation greats, including the Hon. Linda Hall Daschle, Delta’s Richard Anderson, NATCA President Paul Rinaldi, the Hon. Jane Garvey, Boeing’s Neil Planzer, and former Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta.







What is not explicitly mentioned is that Dan[2] was basically the senior political appointee for over twenty-six months and did so on an ACTING basis. Fortunately, Dan is not a pretentious person, but in the stratosphere of the Executive Branch, perhaps more in this Administration more than most, rank matters.

The fact that you’re only “acting” does not excuse you from early morning DOT meetings, nor does it allow to avoid the myriad of ceremonial meetings at which a senior dignitary is expected (and little is accomplished) nor does it mean that you do not have to meet the 18 days which is the normal day of a real Administrator.

The title “acting” has a clear denotation of temporal limitations; so, many of the people with whom Dan worked included in their strategy “wait until he’s gone” approach.

To add to the difficulty of Dan’s 26 months, there were more than a few globally significant crises with which he had to deal. His performance n these difficult times was extraordinary. Safety, aviation and the FAA were the clear hallmarks of his messages.

While he is certainly proud to receive this honor, he holds highest in his firmament of accomplishment- his family, his flying and his service.


[1] The Glen A. Gilbert Memorial Award is dedicated to the memory of one of the recognized “Fathers of Air Traffic Control” and honors the lifelong achievements of an individual in the field of aviation. Glen Gilbert was a visionary who, along with Earl Ward, founded the U.S. air traffic system and dedicated his professional career to its improvement. The design of the trophy includes the Roman God Jupiter, deity of weather, sky, and light, and a depiction of the earth and its atmosphere

[2] This view of Mr. Elwell may be a bit biased–Key Addition Announced for Senior FAA Political Position: Great Pick


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  1. Nancy M. Hackett | August 28, 2019 at 1:23 pm | Reply

    Such a great and well-deserved honor!! Congratulations, Dan – you are the man!!

  2. Joe Washington | August 28, 2019 at 1:34 pm | Reply

    Congratulations, Dan – You deserved it; by-the-way the next time you’re in the Southwest Region I might be able to sign a football for you! aka The other Joe Washington

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