Travelers make their way through Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 23, 2015.
Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Why hasn’t Trump nominated someone to lead the FAA?

Updated

The Rachel Maddow Show, 3/12/19, 9:00 PM ET

Trump admin assurances on plane's safety ring hollow abroad

Rachel Maddow reports on worldwide concerns about potential safety problems with the Boeing 737 MAX 8 and why perceptions of Donald Trump as compromised by poor judgment and susceptibility to manipulation have undermined the authority of the FAA and
Rachel Maddow reports on worldwide concerns about potential safety problems with the Boeing 737 MAX 8 and why perceptions of Donald Trump as compromised by poor judgment and susceptibility to manipulation have undermined the authority of the FAA and
Following two deadly crashes in recent months involving Boeing 737 Max 8s, countries around the world yesterday grounded the aircraft, with some declaring that the plane can no longer fly in their airspace, even if they intend to land elsewhere.

In the United States, however, as the Washington Post reported, U.S. aviation safety officials “found themselves virtually alone.”

The Trump administration resisted bipartisan calls to temporarily suspend use of the Boeing 737 Max 8, even as President Trump consulted by phone with the besieged company’s CEO.

With the European Union and others following China’s move to bar flights by some of the American aviation giant’s most important airplanes, former transportation safety officials said the Federal Aviation Administration risked losing its status as the world’s aviation safety leader.

This coincided with reports of complaints from American pilots, flying American commercial flights, some of whom have said they, too, have experienced difficulties with this specific plane.

Nevertheless, the Trump administration is resisting pressure. The president spoke directly with Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg – an executive who’s cultivated ties with the Republican – who insisted that the plane is safe, and at least for now, Trump isn’t taking the steps we’re seeing other countries take.

At this point, one might assume the president would initiate a series of conversations with his FAA chief. That, however, apparently won’t happen – because Trump hasn’t nominated anyone to lead the FAA.

The president has boasted at times about leaving many federal offices and agencies without a Senate-confirmed head, and as it turns out, if you scroll through the long list of positions, you’ll notice next to the listing for “Administrator, Federal Aviation Administration,” there are two words: “No nominee.”

Barack Obama’s FAA administrator left office over a year ago, and since then, the agency has been led by an acting director, Daniel Elwell, who took the reins in early January 2018.

About a month after that transition, there were reports that Trump – true to form – wanted his longtime personal pilot to lead America’s $18 billion federal regulatory agency overseeing the international gold standard in airline safety. (Note, we’re not talking about the Air Force One pilot; the president wanted the guy who flew the plane with the word “Trump” painted on the side to take over the FAA.)

For whatever reason, Trump’s pilot was never nominated for the post – but at this point, the president hasn’t nominated anyone else, either.

As Rachel noted near the top of last night’s show, given the seriousness of the unexpected crisis facing the aviation industry, people have to hope for competence and capacity in our official leadership. Donald Trump’s presidency doesn’t make that easy.