Huerta: The F.A.A.’s Latino in Charge…

There’s a new jefe running the show at the Federal Aviation Administration

Following the resignation of Randy Babbitt after a drunken driving arrest, Deputy Administrator Michael Huerta was named acting administrator at the FAA—becoming only the second Latino to serve as the nation’s top aviation official.

Michael Huerta

Industry officials and lawmakers expect he’ll continue in the post through next year since the White House most likely will want to avoid a possible nomination fight before the November 6 presidential election.

In a speech at the National Hispanic Coalition of Federal Aviation Employees annual training conference four months ago, Huerta spoke about his humble upbringing and the discrimination he faced growing up.

“Now looking back, years later, I do know that certain experiences were unfair or discriminatory. But at the time, in my youth, I did not think that,” he said during a speech. “Those experiences rolled past me.”

In recent months, Huerta has been leading the FAA’s problematic NextGen effort to transition from an air traffic control system based on World War II-era radar technology to one that’s based on satellite technology. Babbitt had placed Huerta in charge of NextGen after a key technology acquisition program that underpins the effort ran into delays and cost overruns, and airline industry officials began to balk at the cost of adding the expensive equipment necessary to take advantage of the new system.

Huerta is an experienced transportation official who has held several key positions across the country. His reputation for managing complex transportation challenges led him to the international stage when Huerta was tabbed as a Managing Director of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City, which drew 2,400 athletes from 78 countries. Huerta was critical in the planning and construction of a variety of Olympic transportation facilities, as well as the development of a highly successful travel demand management system that insured the transportation system operated safely and efficiently.

Before joining the FAA, Huerta held senior positions at Affiliated Computer Services from 2002-2009 rising to the position of President of the Transportation Solutions Group; ACS is now a Xerox company specializing in business processes and information technology.

Huerta was commissioner of New York City’s Department of Ports, International Trade and Commerce from 1986-89. He then served as the Executive Director of the Port of San Francisco from 1989-1993. From 1993-98, he held senior positions in the U.S. Transportation Department in Washington, D.C., serving under Secretary Federico Pena and Secretary Rodney E. Slater.