Phil Washington, President Joe Biden's nominee to serve as administrator of the FAA, continues to face questions about his qualifications to serve in the role, and his testimony before Congress isn't dispelling doubts about his ability to run America's civil aviation system and keep its citizens safe when they fly.
Already, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) has raised concerns about Washington's experience and resume, suggesting President Biden is "playing politics" rather than prioritizing the safety and efficiency of America's air transportation system. Washington's previous gigs have also seen accusations of wasteful spending and mismanagement of resources, as Townhall reported previously. And, while he served honorably in the military, lawmakers pointed out that Washington has no experience or qualifications related to aviation safety.
That was abundantly clear this week as Washington testified before the Senate Commerce Committee when Senator Ted Budd (R-NC) asked Biden's FAA nominee questions that an FAA administrator would need to know. Not only did Washington fail to impress senators with his answers, he had no answers. In fact, it was absolutely brutal.
First, Washington was asked a basic question about what airspace designation requires pilots to have an ADS-B transponder.
Budd: "What airspace requires an ADS-B transponder?"
Washington: "Not sure I can answer that question right now."
Ok, maybe not everyone knows this.
The second question also dealt with airspace designations created by the FAA, the agency Biden wants Washington to lead.
Budd: "What are the six types of special use airspace that...appear on FAA charts?"
Washington: "Sorry, senator, I cannot answer that question."
So, now it seems like Washington has maybe never even looked at an FAA chart? For those at home (or Washington if he sees this and needs a study guide) the six special use airspace designations are prohibited, restricted, warning, military operations, alert, and national security areas. A seventh, controlled firing areas, is not charted.
Getting away from charts, the third question raised FAA medical regulations.
Budd: "What are the operational limitations of a pilot flying under BasicMed?"
Washington: "Senator, I'm...not a pilot."
Budd: "But, obviously you'd oversee the Federal Aviation Administration, so any idea what those restrictions are under BasicMed?"
Washington: "Well, some of the restrictions I think would be high blood pressure some of them would be..."
Budd: "It's more like how many passengers per airplane, how many pounds, and different categories, and what altitude you can fly under, and amount of knots — it's under 250 knots — so, it's not having anything to do with blood pressure."
What a relief to find out Washington is not a pilot. But he would be running the agency that oversees all the civilian pilots operating in the Untied States so maybe he should brush up on some of this stuff? This one is great because what Washington seemed to think was an educated guess couldn't have been more wrong.
For his fourth question, Budd sought to judge Washington's knowledge of the basics, but that didn't go well either.
Budd: "Can you tell me what causes an aircraft to spin or to stall?"
Washington: "Again, senator, I'm not a pilot."
To not know what causes a plane to spin, or even just to stall, is perhaps Washington's roughest admission. I'm pretty sure middle school science classes discuss the principles of flight and the whole idea that air needs to be moving over a wing at a certain speed to generate enough lift to sustain flight.
The fifth question returned to FAA regulations dealing with aircraft, an important aspect of keeping Americans safe when they fly. It also did not go well.
Budd: "What are the three aircraft certifications the FAA requires as part of the manufacturing process?"
Washington: "Again, what I would say to that is that one of my first priorities would be to fully implement that Certification Act and report..."
Budd: "You know the three types?"
Budd: "That's type certificate, production certificate, and airworthiness certificate. Let's just keep going and see if we can get lucky here."
Alas, Washington did not get lucky on the sixth question either.
Budd: "Can you tell me what the minimum separation distance is for landing and departing airliners during the daytime?"
Washington: "I don't want to guess on that, senator."
Let's hope guessing isn't how Washington plans to administer the FAA if his nomination gets approved... which doesn't seem likely.
The seventh and final attempt by Budd to find an area of aviation safety or FAA regulations Washington could talk about also failed when he was asked about drone regulations.
Budd: "Are you familiar with the difference between Part 107 and Part 44809 when it comes to unmanned aerial standards?"
Washington: "No, I cannot, uh, spell that out..."
So, the guy Biden wants to put in charge of the FAA doesn't know what the FAA requires for aircraft identification and tracking, how the FAA delineates airspace over the United States, what the FAA's medical standards require, how airplanes stall, how the FAA certifies airplanes, how the FAA separates aircraft around airports, or how the FAA regulates drones. At least Washington wasn't willing "to guess" on how much distance is required for planes landing or departing from U.S. airports?
Washington showed himself to be another Biden pick that failed to demonstrate qualifications for the post to which he's been nominated. As Senator Budd quipped along with the supercut of Washington going 0-for-7 in response to his questions, we "can't have an FAA administrator who needs on the job training."
I asked Biden's nominee for FAA Administrator 7 basic questions about aviation policy.— Senator Ted Budd (@SenTedBuddNC) March 1, 2023
He went 0 for 7.
We can't have an FAA Administrator who needs on the job training. @SenateCommerce pic.twitter.com/nzGiEUxr8w