By Mary Grady
Michael Huerta has been working as “acting administrator” in the top job at the FAA since Randy Babbitt’s sudden departure following a drunk-driving arrest last December, but now the Republicans in Congress have lifted a block to his confirmation. After Huerta was approved for the FAA job by a Senate committee in July, Republican Sen. Jim DeMint, of South Carolina, blocked a final confirmation vote until after the election, so the Republicans could choose their own administrator if they won the White House. With DeMint’s objection lifted, the confirmation process can now move forward.
Some aviation advocacy groups have spoken out in support of confirming Huerta for a five-year term as soon as possible. AOPA President Craig Fuller said on Wednesday that Huerta has been good for general aviation. “Michael Huerta is well-qualified to manage the monumental changes taking place in the FAA airspace, navigation, air traffic control and safety programs that directly impact general aviation,” Fuller said. The National Air Traffic Controllers Association also weighed in recently on the appointment. “President Obama made a wise decision to nominate Huerta for administrator last spring,” said Paul Rinaldi, NATCA president. “He has been a steady hand at the controls of an agency that is making very positive strides forward in serving the public. It is time the Senate moves to approve his nomination.”