Jul 6, 2022 - Economy

Biden nominates Denver airport CEO Phil Washington to lead FAA

Phil Washington poses for a portrait at Denver International Airport on June 29, 2021. Photo: Hyoung Chang/Denver Post via Getty Images

Phil Washington at Denver International Airport in June 2021. Photo: Hyoung Chang/Denver Post via Getty Images

President Biden on Wednesday nominated Denver International Airport CEO Phil Washington to lead the Federal Aviation Administration.

Why it matters: The incoming FAA chief faces a huge challenge because the nation's air travel system is currently crippled.

  • Travelers are returning to the skies at pre-pandemic numbers this summer but airports and airlines are struggling with staffing shortages.
  • The federal agency sits in the crosshairs, as airline executives blame delayed flights on a shortage of air traffic controllers.

Details: Washington has served as Denver's airport chief for only a year, after Denver Mayor Michael Hancock tapped him in June 2021, following former CEO Kim Day's retirement after 13 years.

  • He previously led the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority and earlier the Regional Transportation District in Denver.
  • He served 25 years in the U.S. Army and carries two decades of experience in infrastructure building.

Of note: Washington faced weeks of questions and scrutiny after Axios Denver first reported that he was named in a criminal search warrant and connected to public corruption allegations — which the city initially denied.

  • But the Denver City Council ultimately approved his nomination to lead Denver's airport, which is the third-busiest in the world.
  • Washington's salary stands at nearly $350,000 after a 30% pay bump approved in April.

What to watch: Earlier this year, Denver approved Washington's vision to spend another $1.1 billion to complete a massive overhaul of the airport's Great Hall, doubling the project's construction cost and pushing back completion dates by four years.

  • Should Washington get approved, his successor will inherit a massive project that could shape their legacy.
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