Of the 144 executive branch positions that have yet to receive a nominee from President Donald Trump, one was front and center this week.
On Tuesday, the United States found itself alone in allowing the Boeing 737 Max 8, a plane now involved in two deadly crashes in five months, to continue to fly in its airspace. It was President Trump who made the declaration that the US would also ground the plane.
Amid all the news surrounding air travel this week following the Ethiopian Airlines disaster, the country still has no administrator for its top air safety agency, the Federal Aviation Administration.
Michael Huerta, the agency’s former administrator that was appointed by President Obama and confirmed by the Senate in June 2013, left the post in January 2018. Since then, deputy administrator Daniel Elwell has served as acting administrator.
President Trump, who has previously bragged about keeping key cabinet posts empty, at one point touted the idea of nominating his personal pilot John Dunkin to lead the FAA. According to Axios at the time, Dunkin rose to the top of the pile after he told Trump there would be fewer delays on the tarmac if a pilot ran the FAA.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
The FAA is tasked with providing “the safest, most efficient aerospace system in the world,” according to its website. The agency is expected to receive $73 billion of the federal government’s budget for 2019 and has more than 30,000 employees.