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Elwell Talks Oshkosh

By Christina Basken

  • Dan Elwell
    Dan Elwell

July 27, 2019 - Acting FAA Administrator Dan Elwell reminisced on his time as an administrator, sharing highlights from his career, challenges faced, and of course — coming to Oshkosh.

"The thing that I'm the most proud of in what has been a very highly politically charged and volatile atmosphere, particularly in Washington, in our agency our professionals have kept a steady focus on our No. 1 focus being safety," Elwell said. "Our true north does not vary, which is to improve safety and find any way, any process, anything that we do — we are always looking at how it can be improved."

Elwell's job is no easy task. When asked how to combat some of the difficulties he's faced in his position at the FAA, he said, "You have to have faith in the process."

"I've been amazed, quite frankly, in my time at the professionalism of all of the folks at FAA in the face of what at some times has been a very, very adversarial environment in Washington, both very polarized, very political. It's exactly what you can't be in a safety regulatory agency, and that's exactly what our professionals have been able to avoid," Elwell said. "I've been very impressed by the way we handled the shutdown and then almost immediately followed by the accidents."

Elwell has flown into Oshkosh in the past, but this time around was a little more special.

"I've flown in here at least two or three times in the FAA Citation, but I was a passenger each time. This is the first time I was at the controls of a GA aircraft [1981 Beech Baron]," Elwell said. "The coolest thing about coming was that the air show was in full motion, all the smoke trails were being made, and to come alongside of that, to touch down on the dot … that was really cool."

Elwell said that Oshkosh is a place that feels like home to him.

"The moment you step on the property, and it is from every angle, it doesn't matter if you are at the seaplane base or if you're at the tower looking down on the acreage of metal, or just walking the street and looking at these people and their arms are just filled with so much stuff and they're like, where do I go to next. They are sunburned and sweaty, and you know they are sleeping under a wing tonight, but they don't care. They are still happy. It's just unbelievable. I don't know how to describe that! How are you supposed to describe that? And it's passion, it's a passion. It doesn't matter who you talk to — if they are passionate about one particular model or year of airplane, or the whole field — it's infectious."

With Steve Dickson being confirmed as the new administrator on Wednesday, Elwell will be returning to his role as the deputy administrator upon Dickson's swearing in. EAA looks forward to working with the new administrator and is grateful for the strong working relationship with Elwell as the acting administrator over the last several months.

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