Fourteen Republican lawmakers who have their pilot’s license are calling on President Biden to withdraw his nominee to lead the Federal Aviation Administration because he has "zero aviation experience."
"While Mr. Washington honorably served our nation in the Army, he did not serve in an aviation unit," the lawmakers wrote in a Thursday letter to Biden. "He is not a pilot, has zero aviation safety experience, and is entirely unqualified to lead the federal agency responsible for keeping the flying public safe."
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The Republicans pointed out that federal law requires the FAA administrator to have "experience in a field directly related to aviation," and said Biden’s nominee, Phil Washington, doesn’t make the cut.
"The FAA cannot afford to be led by someone who needs on-the-job training, especially at a time when our aviation system is facing tremendous safety challenges such as multiple near-misses by airlines and the first nationwide ground stop of aircraft since 9/11," they wrote.
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Signatories to the letter said they have collectively logged thousands of flight hours, including some for the military. But they said Washington "has never flown a plane, never worked for an airline or an aircraft manufacturer, and never served as an air traffic controller."
"His aviation experience is limited to working at the Denver airport for less than two years," they wrote, referring to his current role as CEO of the Denver International Airport. "In that role, Mr. Washington is primarily responsible for non-aviation matters, such as the airport’s shops, restaurants, parking, and buildings."
The letter was signed by Sens. Ted Budd of North Carolina and Mike Rounds of South Dakota, along with 12 "congressional aviators."
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Washington’s lack of experience in the aviation industry led to tough questioning from Republicans in the Senate Commerce Committee. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, urged senators to investigate his background further and has called Washington "woefully unqualified."
Cruz predicted last week that Washington would have trouble winning the votes for confirmation.
The Senate Commerce Committee is set to vote next week on Washington’s confirmation. A successful vote there would send the nomination to the Senate floor.