Phil Washington, once the CEO of Denver International Airport, is President Joe Biden’s choice to lead the Federal Aviation Administration.
According to Fox News, Washington had initially failed to advance last year after concerns about his limited experience in the aviation industry were put forth. We found out why some had misgivings during his recent Senate confirmation hearings.
Sen. Ted Budd (R-NC), a licensed pilot, had seven questions for Washington that one would expect an FAA administrator to know. Instead, Washington managed to go 0-for-7. (The clip of his ubiquitous ignorance has gone viral.)
The first of these queries concerned what airspace requires the use of an ADS-B transponder. These devices are typically combined with a GPS, in order to transmit highly accurate positional information to ground controllers and other aircraft. These “ADS-B Out” transmissions are more accurate than conventional radar surveillance, thereby affording air traffic controllers the potential to reduce the required separation distance between aircraft that are so equipped.
Washington was unfamiliar with this important device — or the use thereof.
Sen. Budd then asked: “What are the six types of special use airspace that protect… national security that appear on FAA charts?”
Washington replied: “Sorry, Senator, I cannot answer that question.”
Sen. Budd: “What are the operational limitations of a pilot flying under BasicMed?”
Washington: “Senator, I’m not a pilot, so…”
(BasicMed is a program that allows pilots to fly without a medical certificate, provided they only fly certain kinds of planes with limited weight, size, and passengers, etc.)
Budd then noted that Washington would be overseeing the Federal Aviation Administration, and re-queried him: “So any idea what those restrictions are under BasicMed?”
Washington responded, “Well, some of the restrictions, I think, would be high blood pressure, some of them would be –”
At which point Budd cut him off, saying, “It’s more like how many passengers per airplane, how many pounds in different categories and what altitude you can fly under. It doesn’t have anything to do with blood pressure.”
Budd proceeded to ask Washington if he had any idea what causes a plane to spin or stall.
Washington did not.
He was then asked if he knew the three types of certifications the FAA requires as part of aircraft manufacturing.
Unsurprisingly at this point, he answered “No.”
(They are type certificate, production certificate, and airworthiness certificate, if you’re playing along at home.)
Senator Budd — in a seemingly unwarranted fit of optimism — then stated, “Let’s just keep going and see if we can get lucky here,” before asking the final two questions.
They didn’t get lucky, as Washington couldn’t answer either of those queries, either. As you probably guessed.
We cannot be sure if Washington would have been able to successfully answer other, simpler aviation-related questions, such as “Where is the cockpit placed on a typical airplane?” or “What does an air traffic controller do?” Perhaps Washington would have fared better if the questions were, “Can you name two major American airlines?” or “What do we call the person who flies a plane?” Or perhaps not.
George Washington would have had better answers, and the airplane wasn’t invented until 104 years after he passed away.
Kamala Harris as vice-president, Pete Buttigieg as Transportation Secretary? And now Biden nominates Phil Washington to head the FAA? How will he top this, if, God forbid, he wins re-election in 2024? Will he nominate Joy Behar to be Secretary of State, Rob Reiner to head Housing and Urban Development, Lori Lightfoot to be Ambassador to Ukraine, and the Pillsbury Doughboy to lead the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services?
Due to the Brandon Biden administration’s policies, air travel is sadly becoming ever more fraught with danger. Moreover, one could accurately characterize the entire administration’s reign to this point as a virtual — and literal — train wreck.
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