WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently announced Earl Lawrence’s promotion to the Agency’s Executive Director for Aircraft Certification. Lawrence was previously Executive Director for the FAA’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration Office. He succeeds Dorenda Baker, who retired Nov. 30 after a distinguished aviation safety career.
Jay Merkle, Deputy Vice President for the FAA Air Traffic Organization’s Program Management Office, will become the new head of UAS Integration. The appointments became effective Dec. 9, and both executives now report to FAA Associate Administrator for Aviation Safety Ali Bahrami.
“As longstanding FAA advocates for safety, Earl Lawrence and Jay Merkle are the right selections at a critical time for emerging aviation technologies,” said FAA Acting Administrator Dan Elwell in an FAA press release. “Their extensive experience will help ensure a safe transition as these new technologies mature and enter our country’s national airspace.”
Lawrence is a veteran aviator with extensive aviation and leadership experience. Prior to managing the UAS Integration Office, Lawrence was Director of the FAA Small Airplane Directorate and was responsible for 17 aircraft certification and manufacturing district offices in 21 states. Before coming to the FAA in 2010, he served as Vice President for Industry and Regulatory Affairs at the Experimental Aircraft Association.
Merkle has more than 25 years of engineering and program management experience in both the FAA and the defense industry. In his previous position within the Air Traffic Organization, Merkle supported the UAS Integration Office and was an architect of the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) program. Prior to that, Merkle was been a key manager in the FAA’s NextGen Air Transportation System Office where he was responsible for NAS communications, navigation, weather, surveillance and automation modernization programs. He has held positions as the lead engineer for tower, terminal and en route automation systems, the chief system engineer for en route and terminal domains and as the chief architect for NextGen at the Joint Planning and Development Office.
The Aircraft Certification Service is the second largest Aviation Safety Organization, employing more than 1,300 people. Aircraft Certification Service offices are located across the United States, with international offices in Singapore and Belgium. Aircraft Certification is responsible for design and manufacturing approvals, along with the continued operational safety of all aviation products in the United States.
The Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Office coordinates the development of regulations, policies, programs, and procedures to enable the safe integration of UAS into the National Airspace System.