When it came to picking his Secretary of Transportation, President Joe Biden picked Pete Buttigieg, a man whose resume included 1) overperforming in a handful of presidential primaries and 2) being the mayor of the 335th-largest city in the United States of America.
This, apparently, qualifies one to lead the way when it comes to the nation’s transportation and infrastructure needs. And if that’s the guy heading the DOT, wait until you see who’s getting picked to be his underlings.
Phil Washington, once the CEO of Denver International Airport, is President Joe Biden’s choice to lead the Federal Aviation Administration — you know, the agency charged with making sure planes get off the ground, stay in the air, and land safely and on-time.
According to Fox News, Washington had initially failed to advance last year after concerns about his limited experience in the aviation industry were put forth. On Wednesday, during his Senate confirmation hearings, we found out why those concerns were well-founded.
GOP North Carolina Sen. Ted Budd, a licensed pilot, had seven questions for Washington that one would expect an FAA administrator to know most of. Instead, he managed to go a solid 0-for-7 in what’s become a viral clip.
The first of these queries regarded what airspace requires an ADS-B transponder. According to Trig Avionics, these devices, are “typically combined with a GPS, to transmit highly accurate positional information to ground controllers and also directly to other aircraft.
“This transmission is known as ADS-B Out and its accuracy is greater than using conventional radar surveillance. This gives air traffic controllers the potential to reduce the required separation distance between aircraft that are ADS-B equipped.”
Washington didn’t know what it was, however.
“That’s a pretty important part,” Budd said.
Next: “What are the six types of special use airspace that protect … national security that appear on FAA charts?”
Washington: “Sorry, senator, I cannot answer that question.”
Thankfully, the FAA nominee had an answer to the next question. It was wrong, I mean, but he had it.
The question: “What are the operational limitations of a pilot flying under BasicMed?” Budd asked.
“Senator, I’m not a pilot, so–” Washington said.
“But obviously you oversee the Federal Aviation Administration, so any idea what those restrictions are under BasicMed?” Budd asked.
“Well, some of the restrictions, I think, would be high blood pressure, some of them would be–” Washington said.
Budd stopped him before he got too far afield; BasicMed is a program that allows pilots to fly without a medical certificate provided they only fly certain kinds of planes with limited weight, size and passengers, inter alia.
“It’s more like how many passengers per airplane, how many pounds in different categories and what altitude you can fly under,” Budd noted. “It doesn’t have anything to do with blood pressure.”
Next: Did Washington have any idea what causes a plane to spin or stall? Answer: Nope!
Then: the three certifications the FAA requires as part of aircraft manufacturing.
“Again, what I would say to that is one of my first priorities would be to fully implement that certification act,” Washington said.
“Do you know the three types, Mr. Washington?” Budd interjected.
“No,” he responded. (Type certificate, production certificate and airworthiness certificate, for the uninitiated.)
“Let’s just keep going and see if we can get lucky here,” Budd said after that one.
Spoiler alert: Things did not get one iota better.
I asked Biden’s nominee for FAA Administrator 7 basic questions about aviation policy.
He went 0 for 7.
We can’t have an FAA Administrator who needs on the job training. @SenateCommerce pic.twitter.com/nzGiEUxr8w
— Senator Ted Budd (@SenTedBuddNC) March 1, 2023
Well, that’s one way to beclown yourself in front of Congress. Needless to say, there’s only one possible reaction to a performance like this:
… he will fit perfectly into this administration, hire him!!!
— Mini0Truckin0 (@mini0truckin0) March 2, 2023
This comes after a similar embarrassment in January, when Charnelle Bjelkengren, a Biden nominee to sit on the bench for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington, couldn’t answer basic questions about the Constitution.
CRINGE: Biden federal district court nominee Judge Charnelle Bjelkengren, from Washington state’s Spokane County Superior Court, cannot answer simple questions about the Articles of the US Constitution during Senate Judiciary Committee hearing pic.twitter.com/pbYY2YI2iZ
— Ari Hoffman (@thehoffather) January 26, 2023
However, we’re used to an incompetent judiciary whenever someone with a D after his name occupies 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.; Biden’s one Supreme Court pick couldn’t define a woman because she said she wasn’t an biologist. Planes — and keeping them up in the sky — are a rather different matter, particularly after a winter of airport snarls and a Transportation secretary who seemed impotent to do anything but yell at Southwest Airlines executives on Sunday morning political chat shows.
Wednesday’s hearing is a sign that the problem may not lie solely with the perfidious airlines, however. I’m not a nominee and I knew the answer to two of those seven questions (what causes a stall/spin and what the three types of certificates are, respectively).
Little wonder, then, that prominent Republicans have already tried to stall (pun intended) Washington’s nomination by pointing out his lack of experience in the job he wants and his job performance at his previous employer — L.A. Metro, where corruption allegations dogged Washington due to an exorbitant contract for a sexual harassment hotline that was given to a charity connected to a Metro board member.
“It’s bad enough that Mr. Washington has zero aviation safety experience and is entangled in an ongoing, unresolved criminal probe of public corruption at L.A. Metro,” said GOP Sen. Ted Cruz, urging that the hearing be pushed back.
He needn’t have bothered, however. After all, if there was ever a moment to expose just how unfit for the job Mr. Washington was, it was Wednesday — and Sen. Budd did stellar work exposing it.
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