Aviation supporters laud FAA chief's Senate confirmation

The aviation industry and its supporters had clamored for Huerta to be confirmed, arguing that uncertainty atop the nation's regulatory agency for flights was harming the development of crucial safety technologies like a satellite-based navigation system.

Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA) President Greg Principato said Wednesday that he applauded "the Senate’s decision to put partisan differences aside and move acting Administrator Huerta’s nomination forward."

“The national aviation system is a key driver for the U.S. economy," Principato said. "Given the challenging fiscal times facing our country and our industry, we need a full-time administrator who can dedicate the next five years to working with all industry stakeholders to create a national aviation policy that will ensure the country remains both an economic engine and be globally competitive well into the 21st century.”

AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department President Ed Wytkind agreed.

"Administrator Huerta has a proven track record as a problem-solver in managing complex aviation investments and policies that make air travel safer and more efficient, and that support middle-class jobs," Wytkind said. "Moreover, he respects and understands the vital role of public- and private-sector employees in operating, building, maintaining and modernizing our aviation network.

“With so much unfinished business ahead, such as finding a long-term solution to our chronically underfunded aviation system, Michael Huerta is the right choice to lead that effort as the nation’s chief aviation steward,” Wytkind continued.

Huerta ascended to the FAA administrator post after a rocky period in the aviation agency industry's history.

The now-full-time FAA administrator began serving in the position on an interim basis in December 2011 when President Obama's first FAA chief, Randy Babbitt, resigned following a drunk-driving arrest.

The charges against Babbitt were later dropped, but Obama tapped Huerta, who had been deputy FAA Administrator, for a full five-year term in March.

The nomination was then held up by outgoing Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who argued in the summer that the confirmation of a new FAA chief should wait until after the presidential election in November because the administrator's term would be longer than the election's eventual winner.

DeMint relented after Obama won reelection to a second term over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R).

Before Huerta was first appointed to the FAA in 2010, he worked at a technology company called Affiliated Computer Services. He also served as commissioner of New York City's Department of Ports, International Trade and Commerce in the 1980s and was executive director of the Port of San Francisco from 1989 to 1993.

Huerta additionally served in the Transportation Department under former President Clinton and was managing director of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City, which were famously managed by Romney.