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Monday, January 24, 2022

US FAA Appoints WestJet Employee as New Chief of Flight Safety

WASHINGTON. On Thursday, the Federal Aviation Administration said it had appointed a Canadian airline security official to lead the agency’s aviation safety organization.

Billy Nolen, who most recently served as vice president of safety, security and quality for WestJet Airlines in Canada, will take over as FAA Safety Assistant Administrator early next year and lead a team of more than 7,600 FAA employees.

The FAA’s safety efforts and oversight for Boeing have come under fire after two fatal 737 MAX crashes in the five-month period from October 2018 to March 2019, which killed 346 people. Last December, Congress passed legislation reforming how the FAA certifies new aircraft and reducing the delegation of certain responsibilities to manufacturers such as Boeing.

Nolen will replace Ali Bahrami, who stepped down in June after facing harsh criticism from relatives of the two deadly 737 MAX disasters and some lawmakers.

Nolen “understands safety and realizes that our journey requires constant vigilance and continuous improvement,” said FAA Administrator Steve Dixon.

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Nolen began his professional career in 1989 as an American Airlines pilot and later became the airline’s managing director for corporate safety and regulatory affairs.

Despite last year’s legislation, a US Senate report on Monday said the FAA should better oversee Boeing and the certification of new aircraft.

He found that “FAA oversight of the certification process has weakened,” adding that the agency “has increasingly delegated its authority over time” to Boeing and others.

The agency “must take immediate action to remove undue pressure on Boeing’s safety oversight office,” the message said, adding that the FAA is chronically understaffed.

Dixon said the FAA delegated less responsibility for aircraft certification to Boeing in November. The FAA is currently investigating a number of Boeing aircraft issues and is working to implement many of the reforms mandated by Congress.

David Shepardson

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