Failing Up: Biden to Tap Buttigieg Deputy To Lead Flailing Federal Aviation Administration

Polly Trottenberg (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
June 5, 2023

President Joe Biden is expected to tap Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s top deputy to lead the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Deputy Transportation Secretary Polly Trottenberg is expected to assume the role of acting FAA administrator as early as this week, the Wall Street Journal reported. Trottenberg, who has no professional experience with the aviation industry, will take the helm amid a sharp uptick in near plane collisions, a trend that prompted the FAA to issue a "safety call to action" in February.

Buttigieg has faced consistent criticism for his oversight of the Transportation Department. The Washington Free Beacon reported last year on his decision to take a European vacation in the midst of a looming rail strike that would have crippled the economy. The inspector general opened a probe into Buttigieg’s use of taxpayer funded flights around the globe in February.

A majority of Americans want Buttigieg to resign from his post, according to a March poll. His low approval ratings stem from his response to incidents such as the East Palestine, Ohio, rail crash and a high number of flight cancellations from carriers such as Southwest Airlines.

Trottenberg was deputy transportation security under former president Barack Obama and New York City’s transportation commissioner. The FAA has not had a Senate-confirmed leader since the Trump administration.

Biden nominated Phil Washington to the post, but he bowed out in March due to bipartisan concerns about his record. Washington’s only aviation-related experience was a one-year stint as CEO of Denver International Airport.

"This wasn't the time for an administrator who needed on-the-job training," Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) said.

The Department of Transportation did not respond to a request for comment.