Federal Aviation Administration chief Steve Dickson resigned from his post halfway through his five-year term. Citing family issues, Dickson told his staff Wednesday night that he would be leaving the FAA at the end of March.
Dickson, who has spent most of the pandemic in Washington DC running the 45,000-person agency, has family in Georgia and Florida. The 64-year-old explained his decision to staff in a memo which read:
Over the past few years, my family has been a tremendous source of encouragement, strength and support. Nevertheless, after sometimes long and inevitable periods of separation from my loved ones during the pandemic, it is time to devote all my time and attention to them. As I wrote in my letter to President Biden, it’s time to go home.
Although my heart is heavy, I am extremely proud of all that we have accomplished together over the past few years. The agency is in a better position than two years ago, and we are positioned for great success. It has been the privilege of a lifetime to serve alongside you.
Dickson sworn in as 18and FAA administrator for a five-year term on August 12, 2019 – months after two Boeing 737 MAX crashes killed 346 people and plunged the agency into a firestorm of criticism over its approval of planes. That’s why, before allowing the plane to resume operations at the end of 2020, Dickson personally flew the 737 MAX, ensuring that Boeing had carried out the necessary training and software improvements.
Prior to joining the FAA, Dickson spent nearly three decades at Delta Air Lines, retiring as senior vice president of flight operations.
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Following the announcement of his resignation, the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) expressed its gratitude to Dickson for his “service, leadership and dedication” to aviation safety. According to AUVSI President and CEO Brian Wynne:
The drone and advanced air mobility (AAM) industries represented by AUVSI have benefited from Administrator Dickson’s leadership in advancing the steps towards the safe integration of drones into the national airspace and the movement towards enabling AAM operations in the future with new advanced technologies like vertical takeoff and elevator. (VTOL). Administrator Dickson led the finalization and implementation of rules for remote identification and people operations and launched the Aviation Rules Development Committee Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS).
During his tenure, Dickson argued that the FAA is not only a regulator but also a provider of air navigation services. “So, of course, we are heavily invested in making sure that the drone ecosystem will integrate seamlessly with our air traffic control system,” he said.
Here’s Dickson from a June 2021 speech, talking about the upcoming remote ID rule for drones:
The Remote ID Ruler is a digital license plate that will pave the way for more advanced operations and full integration of drones into the national airspace system. This means routine BVLOS and a boost for package delivery, especially in congested airspace at low altitudes as part of a UTM ecosystem. The bottom line for operators is this: If you fly a drone that requires registration, meaning it weighs more than 0.55 pounds, you must fully comply with the rule by September 16, 2023.
There are three ways to comply: Using a drone made with the technology; Incorporate an external distribution module; or fly without Remote ID within what we call an FAA Recognized Identification Area, or FRIA.
In many cases, FRIAs will be the traditional model aircraft fields where enthusiasts have congregated and flown safely for decades. Technically speaking, if you’re not flying in a FRIA, the drone will need to broadcast its unique identifier, altitude, location, and information about its control station or home point.
Now, that doesn’t mean Phil Mickelson could have pulled out his smartphone and found out who was using the TV camera drone he claims was blocking his 4th hole to the green at the PGA Championship a few weeks ago. Even Phil doesn’t have that kind of attraction. This means, for example, that by coordinating with the FAA, the appropriate law enforcement agencies can identify and stop incidents such as drones operating illegally around wildfires where they have sometimes prevented traditional activities. firefighting in aviation.
That’s one goal, but the bigger picture is that Remote ID is a necessary ingredient for Beyond Visual Line of Sight operations, which, as you know, are key to unlocking the true potential of drones and other highly autonomous vehicles.
Although it is not yet decided who will succeed Dickson, the FAA said it will work with the White House to find a replacement.
Read more: FAA grants BVLOS drone waiver for 12-mile distance, longest ever
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