Stephen ”Steve” Dickson

Stephen ”Steve” Dickson

Stephen “Steve” Dickson was born in Lake Charles, Louisiana, in 1957, where his father was serving as a B-47 pilot at Chennault Air Force Base. As he grew up, his family moved frequently within the US and internationally, but always considered Georgia “home” since Steve’s father was born in Fayetteville, Georgia, and the family’s history in the state went back several generations to 1825. After graduating from high school, Steve entered the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, leading the 4,400-strong Cadet Wing as its commander his senior year.

After graduation from the Academy in 1979, Steve began his military career by completing pilot training as an Outstanding Graduate at Reese Air Force Base in Lubbock, Texas. He was then hand-picked to serve in the initial cadre of T-38 instructors in the new Euro-North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Joint Jet Pilot Training (ENJJPT) program at Sheppard Air Force Base, Wichita Falls, Texas. This program focused on training tactical fighter pilots for the US and its NATO partners. Over the next three years, Steve instructed US and international students in the ENJJPT program as well as incoming instructor trainees from all the participating NATO air forces.

In 1984, he completed his initial F-15 qualification at Luke AFB, Arizona, graduating as the Top Gun of his class. Over the next two and a half years, he was stationed at Holloman AFB, New Mexico, where he served as an F-15 flight commander, instructor pilot and large force employment mission commander where he frequently led large missions of 75 or more aircraft from multiple units in tactical scenarios at Red Flag and other exercises. In 1987, Steve was selected for the prestigious Air Staff Training Program (ASTRA) at the Pentagon. During his ASTRA tour, he served on the Joint Staff in the European Policy division of the J-5 Policy Directorate.

After his tour in Washington, Steve moved to Bitburg Air Base, Federal Republic of Germany, as an F-15 flight commander and instructor in the 22nd Tactical Fighter Squadron. The “Big 22” was honored during this period with selection as the winner of the Hughes Trophy, awarded to the best air superiority squadron in the USAF. The squadron also was awarded the Commander in-Chief United States Air Forces in Europe (CINC USAFE) Trophy two years running. Steve himself was a key leader in the squadron and was honored with his selection as the 36th Tactical Fighter Wing Pilot of the Year and Flight Commander of the year in 1989.

After completing his service in the Air Force in late 1990, Steve began a career as a pilot with Delta Air Lines. He flew as a line pilot on the Boeing 727 until June 1999, when he was asked to become the executive assistant for the director of Flight Operations. During the period of 1994-1999 he completed his Juris Doctor degree at the Georgia State University College of Law, served as the associate lead articles editor on the law review, and graduated magna cum laude.

Steve continued to progress through several leadership positions at Delta over the next several years. These positions included manager of crew scheduling, manager of strategy and communications, and chief pilot-Atlanta. He was serving as the manager of pilot crew scheduling on 9/11 and was flying that day. After the airspace was closed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), he drove back to Atlanta to lead his team in reconstituting Delta’s operations over the next four days. In 2005, he was selected to be Director-Flight Operations and then Senior Vice President (SVP)-Flight Operations. In this role, he was responsible for the safety and operational performance of the carrier’s 3,300+ daily global flight operations, as well as pilot training, crew resources, crew scheduling, and regulatory compliance.

During his Delta career, Steve flew the Airbus A319/320/321 series and the Boeing 727, 737, 757, and 767. In addition to his government and private sector accomplishments, Captain Dickson has consistently been recognized as one of the foremost leaders in the aerospace industry, serving as chairman of several industry stakeholder groups and federal advisory committees.

Steve retired from Delta in 2018 as the longest-tenured SVP-Flight Ops in the company’s history. He was then asked whether he would consider serving his country a second time as Administrator of the FAA. Subsequently, after being confirmed by the United States Senate, Steve served as the 18th Administrator of the FAA from August 2019 until April 2022. 

At the FAA, Administrator Dickson led the agency’s turnaround, ensuring the FAA regained the public’s trust and its stature as the premier aviation authority in the world. His hands-on leadership clearly prioritized aerospace safety, global leadership, operational excellence, and the health, welfare, and development of the FAA's workforce. During his tenure, he presided over the recertification of the 737 MAX, in the process flying the airplane himself, to validate that it was safe to resume commercial passenger service. He also oversaw the continued availability and the safe and efficient operation of the air traffic control system throughout the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, during his tenure, the commercial space, drone, and advanced air mobility sectors achieved unprecedented levels of growth and innovation.

Administrator Dickson retired from the FAA in April 2022. He now consults for several aviation and aerospace industry companies and continues to give back through his service on the United States Air Force Academy Foundation. He resides with his wife, Janice, in Indialantic, Florida and, enjoys spending time with his adult children and grandchildren who continue to live in Atlanta.