The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration has selected Captain Billy Nolen, an experienced aviation safety professional and former airline captain, to head the agency’s aviation safety organization.
As Associate Administrator for Aviation Safety, Nolen will lead a team of more than 7,600 FAA employees who oversee all aspects of aviation safety, including aerospace manufacturing, airline operations, business and general aviation activities, and the growing fields of unmanned aircraft systems and electric propulsion. Nolen most recently served as Vice President for Safety, Security and Quality for WestJet Airlines in Canada.
“I have said many times that aviation safety is a journey, not a destination,” said FAA Administrator Steve Dickson. “Billy Nolen understands aviation safety, and he understands that our journey requires constant vigilance and continuous improvement. We look forward to him joining our leadership team.”
“I have spent my entire professional life seeking to influence and advance aviation safety and the safety culture of every organization I’ve been blessed to be a part of,” said Captain Nolen. “I look forward to joining the incredible team of professionals that make up the FAA and working tirelessly to advance aviation safety both domestically and globally.”
Prior to his employment at WestJet, Nolen held safety leadership positions at Qantas Airways, Airlines for America and American Airlines. He began his professional career in 1989 as a pilot for American, earning type ratings on Boeing 757, 767 and McDonnell Douglas MD-80 aircraft. He later managed the carrier’s Aviation Safety Action Program (ASAP) and rose through the management ranks to become the airline’s managing director for corporate safety and regulatory affairs.
In 2015, Nolen became senior vice president for safety, security and operations at Airlines for America, a trade group that represents the airlines. From 2018 to 2019, he served as executive manager for group safety and health at Qantas. He moved to WestJet in 2020.
In addition to his professional aviation experience, Nolen served tours of duty in the U.S. Army as an airplane and helicopter pilot and safety officer. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Professional Aeronautics from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, as well as specialized aviation safety management certificates from the University of Southern California, United States Army Safety Center and the United States Navy Postgraduate School.
Nolen will begin work with the FAA in early 2022.