FAA Administrator Stephen Dickson Swearing-In Remarks

Administrator Stephen M. Dickson (August 12, 2019 - March 31, 2022)

As Prepared

Thank you for that kind introduction and thanks to all of you for being here today. I’d like to thank President Trump and Secretary Chao for their confidence in me to lead the FAA during this very important time. It was an honor to receive the President’s nomination, and the Secretary’s support was vital during my confirmation process.

I would like to thank our emcee for today, Deputy Administrator Dan Elwell, for his strong, principled leadership during a very challenging time in the agency’s history. Dan, you have served your country and the aviation industry with distinction, and I look forward to working with you and the outstanding team at the FAA as we move forward together.

I see so many friends, colleagues and leaders from across the aviation industry who are so critical to the safety and success in aviation we enjoy as a nation. Welcome and thank you for coming. Janice and I are blessed that so many friends made the trip to spend this day with us.

My biggest thanks are for my family. My Mom, Joy and my father-in-law, Hank Borger, both made the trip and I am thankful you were able to share this day with us.

Sadly my Dad, Bill, passed away in May about six days after my confirmation hearing. But I know he is looking down on us now with great pride.

To my biggest supporter, the love of my life, my wife, Janice—the glue that holds our family together. Honey, I know the FAA was not originally in your flight plan and that we are diverting for a few years from our intended destination. I am so thankful for your support, your encouragement and your love. I love you and appreciate you so much!

With that, I am reminded of that basic principle of military “change of command” speeches: “be brief, be brilliant, and be gone!” So let’s get on with it.

The US aviation system is the safest, most dynamic, and innovative in the world, largely due to the collaborative approach to safety championed by the FAA and shared by various segments of the industry represented here today. Your presence here sends a strong message to the traveling public, to those who operate in our airspace, and to the international aviation community: that while we have earned their trust through our robust approach to safety, the job is not done. In fact it is never done. We all have to work together to retain- and in places, restore- that trust.

I am honored to join the outstanding team at the FAA. I want all FAA people to know that I look forward to working with them to ensure our aviation system maintains its proper place leading the world in both safety and operational performance. Nowhere else in the world sees the volume, complexity and pace of innovation that we have in our aviation system here in America. That certainly presents challenges, but also tremendous opportunities.

The public, and all those who work in American aviation, should know that FAA will continue to lead as a values-driven organization. Our highest and most important value is safety—this cannot be compromised. A lesson I learned in my service to our country in the Air Force, and will bring to my leadership of the FAA, is that safety is a journey, and not a destination. It’s a journey that we must embark upon with renewed vigor each and every day.

At this moment, an entire fleet of U.S.-made aircraft is grounded due to two tragic accidents overseas. My heart goes out to the families of those who perished in Indonesia and Ethiopia. I want to again be clear: FAA is a safety-driven organization and safety is my highest priority. This plane will not fly in commercial service until I am completely assured that it is safe to do so. FAA is following no timeline in returning the aircraft to service. Rather, we are going where the facts lead us and diligently ensuring that all technology and training is present and correct before the plane returns to passenger service.

Throughout the U.S. aviation sector, any safety program—whether at an airline, an airport, a manufacturer or even at a regulator—has at its foundation a just culture that places an extremely high value on front-line employee reporting.

Programs like ASAP, ATSAP, FOQA and ASIAS provide extremely valuable data that allow us to take proactive safety actions. Now you can see that I am already adapting quite well to the Washington environment—just in that last sentence I used four acronyms! Seriously, these safety reporting programs require collaboration between the operator, the regulator and labor. The benefits of this collaboration in enhancing safety have been demonstrated time and again. We will do everything in our power to ensure the FAA promotes and “walks the walk” on employee safety reporting programs. And you can expect us to take actions to ensure this same philosophy permeates all sectors of the aviation system.

FAA strives to be a constructive partner with the wider industry, but we can never and will never forget that we are a regulator whose first responsibility is the safety of the flying public. FAA will seek out consensus, but ultimately will act in the best interests of the safety of the aviation system as a whole.

As we work together, it is important to recognize that we will not always agree. But you can count on me to deal with each issue with honesty, integrity and from a standpoint of mutual respect. My team at the FAA will, too.

Maintaining the highest levels of safety while adapting to technological advancements will be a key part of our success. The rate of change is something that will require the focus and attention of the FAA and all aviation stakeholders. Innovation, automation, new entrants coming into the system—you see it every day in the headlines. To be successful as a regulator and air navigation service provider, the FAA must be able to operate ahead of that rate of change. I will not allow FAA to be bureaucratic or to ever accept the inertia that can be so prevalent in large organizations. Our mantra must be continuous improvement, because what we did yesterday will simply not be good enough tomorrow.

It is such a privilege to stand before you today with the opportunity to lead the premier aviation authority in the world. I’d like to thank the Secretary again for her support, advice, and leadership of this Department. I’m grateful to the President for this nomination and the opportunity to serve our country again.

I am honored to be able to help write the next chapter in the history of the FAA. I’m excited to come on board and roll up my sleeves, and am humbled to work with all of you and the team at the FAA. I believe our best days are ahead of us.

Thank you again for being here today.