The five-year term of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) administrator Michael Huerta came to an end last week, and Dan Elwell, Huerta’s deputy administrator since June of 2017, is now serving as acting head of the agency.
Huerta, who took over as acting director of the FAA in December 2011 and was appointed by President Obama to lead the agency in January 2013, has been involved in plenty of legislation in recent years dealing with the operation of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). During his tenure, he also wrestled with implementation of the NextGen GPS-based air traffic control system as well as the emerging need for regulations on drone operators.
Elwell, now the Acting Administrator of the FAA, is responsible for the safety and efficiency of the largest aerospace system in the world — a system that operates more than 50,000 flights per day. He oversees a $16.4 billion-dollar budget, more than 47,000 employees, and is focused on ensuring the agency and its employees are the best prepared and trained professionals to meet the growing demands and requirements of the industry. In his new capacity, Elwell also oversees the FAA’s multibillion-dollar NextGen air traffic control modernization program as the U.S. shifts from ground-based radar to state-of-the-art satellite technology.
Prior to serving as Acting Administrator, he was the Deputy Administrator of the FAA. President Trump announced the appointment of Elwell as the Deputy Administrator last June and he was sworn in to office on June 26, 2017.
Elwell previously served at the FAA as the Assistant Administrator for Policy, Planning, and Environment from 2006-2008. Most recently, he was Senior Advisor on Aviation to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao. Earlier in his career, he served as a legislative fellow for the late Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska).
From 2013-2015, as Senior Vice President for Safety, Security, and Operations at Airlines for America (A4A), Elwell was responsible for leading the advancement of commercial aviation safety and security excellence for major U.S. air carriers.
Prior to A4A, Elwell was Vice President of the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) from 2008-2013. In this role, he represented civil aerospace manufacturers and led policy development and advocacy for the civil aerospace manufacturing interests of more than 300 AIA member companies.
Elwell was a commercial pilot for 16 years with American Airlines, flying DC-10, MD-80, and B-757/767 aircraft. While maintaining his proficiency as an MD-80 Captain, he served as Managing Director for International and Government Affairs at American Airlines.
He earned his pilot wings at Williams Air Force Base in Arizona after graduating from the U.S. Air Force Academy with a Bachelor of Science degree in International Affairs. Lieutenant Colonel Elwell retired from military service as a Command Pilot with more than 6,000 hours combined civilian and military flight time in the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Air Force Reserve, including combat service during Operation Desert Storm.