Daniel “Dan” Elwell is the acting head of the Federal Aviation Administration. Prior to assuming a role in the agency, Elwell was a lobbyist for the airline industry in Washington D.C. Elwell was appointed to the role in January 2018 having served as a deputy administrator in the agency since the summer of 2017.
Elwell is an Air Force veteran who flew in Operation Desert Storm shortly before his retirement. At that time, Elwell had achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
At the time he assumed the role, it had been widely reported that Trump had also been lobbying for his personal pilot, John Dunkin, to become the head of the FAA. Elwell was the Trump transition team’s aviation consultant
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Elwell Worked as a Lobbyist for Over 10 Years Before Rejoining the FAA in 2017
According to Elwell’s LinkedIn page, began working in Washington D.C. for American Airlines as the Managing Director of International and Government Affairs. In addition, Elwell was also a captain with the airline. From there, Elwell first went to work in the FAA under George W. Bush as an administrator for policy and planning. Elwell has also worked for the Aerospace Industries Association between July 2008 and January 2013. In February 2013, Elwell joined Airlines for America.
Two years later, Elwell began his own firm, Elwell & Associates, described as “An aviation consulting and advocacy firm specializing in a broad array of domestic and international aviation legislative and regulatory policy issues impacting manufacturers and operators.” Elwell also worked as an aviation advisor to Ted Stevens, the late Alaskan senator.
2. Elwell Has Denied the Government Shutdown Had Anything to Do With a Software Addition to the Boeing 737 Max
On March 13, the Wall Street Journal reported that the government shutdown in January 2019 that contributed to a software update to Boeing 737 Max planes being delayed. This report came on the same day that President Donald Trump announced that the U.S. would join the rest of the world in grounding Boeing 737 Max, following two crashes involving the aircraft. Elwell has denied that story saying in a press conference that the shutdown “did not cause any delay on the software addition.” That software addition was created following the Lionair crash.
In that same press conference, Elwell said that it was his decision to decide to ground the 737 planes. The decision came after a further review from surveillance company, Aireon. When asked how long the grounding would last, Elwell said, “I can’t and I don’t want to hazard a guess as to how long. My hope is that the FAA, the carriers, the manufacturers, that all parties will work very hard to make this grounding as short as possible.” Elwell had previously said that there had been “no basis” to ground the fleet.
3. Elwell Said in November 2018 That Trump & Pence Gave the FAA ‘The Green Light to Think Outside the Box’
In a November 2018 speech to the Aero Club of Washington, Elwell spoke favorably of President Donald Trump saying:
The FAA hasn’t started a fiscal year with a full appropriation since 1997. Think about that for a second. We support two-thirds of the world’s airspace… nearly a billion passengers… and 5 percent of the GDP.
That’s your bottom line. That’s America’s bottom line. And it’s just no way to run the largest, most complex air navigation system in the world.
President Trump gets that. He’s a businessman. And he’s bringing those same principles to this Administration. He told us to get rid of rules that have outlived their usefulness.
Elwell added, “We’re answering the President’s call to cut two regulations for every new one.” Later in the same speech, Elwell said, “The President, the Vice President, and the Secretary have given us the green light to think outside the box. The stars don’t always line up like that. And we need to take advantage. I think we already are… but we can do more.”
4. Elwell Has Predicted a Major Pilot Shortage in the U.S.
Elwell wrote in the Wall Street Journal in 2015 that he felt there was a severe shortage of pilots in the U.S., in part due to the paltry starting salary of $23,000. Elwell cited a statistic that showed over a 35-year period, the number of pilots had shrunk from over 600,000 to 240,000 in the U.S. He also pointed to a Democratic-led law which required pilots to have 1,500 hours instead of 250 hours in order to become an airline co-pilot.
In conclusion, Elwell says that the FAA and airlines “will not compromise safety by lowering standards to fill cockpits” but rather cut back schedules, thus annoying consumers. Elwell adds, “Unless something is done to reverse the trend … we’re going to be feeling that for years.”
5. Elwell Is Married to His Wife Cheryl, the Couple Has 3 Children Together
Elwell is married to his wife Cheryl nee Parrish. The couple lives in Fairfax Station, Virginia, together. The couple has three children, Tyler, Cameron and Natalie, together.