DIA head Phil Washington tapped to be next FAA administrator

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Phil Washington, candidate to become CEO of Denver International Airport, sits in an office in the City and County Building. June 23, 2021.

President Joe Biden has tapped Denver International Airport CEO Phillip A. Washington to lead the Federal Aviation Administration.

Washington’s brief tenure with DIA was his second stint in Denver. Washington Served as CEO of the Regional Transportation District (RTD) from 2009 to 2015. He ran the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority from 2015 to 2021 before returning to the Mile High City.

Washington is also familiar with the Biden administration. He headed Biden’s transition team for transportation after the 2020 Election.        

Washington took over at DIA on July 16, 2021, the same day that former CEO Kim Day retired after 13 years with the airport. 

He was handed the tall task of leading the $770 million Great Hall terminal renovation project. The project proved to be controversial due to delays and cost overruns. The Denver City Council eventually terminated its contract with the Great Hall Partners, a consortium hired to redesign and renovate the airport’s main terminal. The city  made the final payment to finally cut ties with the group in March 2020.

Despite the setbacks, the Great Hall project got a $1.3 billion infusion for the city earlier this year.  Washington had recently given an update on the first quarter of DIA’s strategic plan, Vision 100. He highlighted the progress in Phase 2 of the Great Hall Project, which is now under budget and is slated to be completed in 2024.

The Seattle Times first reported Washington’s nomination to become the next FAA administrator last month. Denver Mayor Michael Hancock has to nominate his replacement.

Washington comes to the FAA at a critical time. The agency has been under scrutiny from airlines and passengers to address concern over the growing number of air travelers and rising numbers of flight delays and cancellations. The agency was also criticized for its handling of investigations into two Boeing Max jets crashes that occured between 2018 and 2019.  

Washington, who grew up in Chicago’s South Side, takes over for acting FAA administrator Billy Nolen. Nolen had been in the role since the departure of Steve Dickson, who resigned in February.