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FAA administrator Steve Dickson will step down midway through his term

FAA chief Steve Dickson testifies before a Senate panel in June 2020. Dickson announced he is leaving the FAA.
Graeme Jennings
Pool/Getty Images
FAA chief Steve Dickson testifies before a Senate panel in June 2020. Dickson announced he is leaving the FAA.

The head of the Federal Aviation Administration, who took over the agency as it was reeling from allegations of lax oversight in the aftermath of two Boeing 737 MAX airplane crashes, is stepping down.

FAA Administrator Steve Dickson is a former Air Force and Delta Air Lines pilot who worked his way up to be Delta's senior vice president of flight operations.

He came out of retirement from Delta to head up the FAA, which at the time was under intense scrutiny for certifying Boeing's 737 MAX jetliner, when two of the planes crashed and killed a total of 346 people.

The FAA had approved the new jetliner while knowing little about an automated flight control system that crash investigators blame for playing a significant role in the crashes.

Dickson refused to approve the 737 MAX to fly passengers again until he flew the plane himself, which he did in September of 2020.

Dickson told FAA employees in a letter that he was proud of his tenure, saying, "The agency is in a better place than it was two years ago, and we are positioned for great success."

He said his decision comes with "mixed emotions and a heavy heart."

"Nevertheless, after sometimes long and unavoidable periods of separation from my loved ones during the pandemic, it is time to devote my full time and attention to them. As I wrote in my letter to President Biden, it is time to go home," he told employees.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said the 64-year-old Dickson "has been the FAA's steady and skilled captain."

In a statement, Buttigieg said Dickson's tenure "has been marked by steadfast commitment to the FAA's safety mission ... and his lifelong dedication to making sure our aviation system is the best and safest in the world."

This story originally appeared in the Morning Edition live blog.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

David Schaper
David Schaper is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, based in Chicago, primarily covering transportation and infrastructure, as well as breaking news in Chicago and the Midwest.