W. Joseph “Joe” Sullivan, who spent 30 years as a lawyer and top executive at the Federal Aviation Administration, died Oct. 14 at Inova Alexandria Hospital. He was 77.

He had lung cancer, said his wife, Bette Jo Sullivan.

Mr. Sullivan joined the FAA’s general counsel staff in 1964 and later worked in the agency’s legislative office. He helped draft several congressional acts concerning airport development, air traffic control and hijacking.

He served as executive assistant to the FAA administrator in the 1970s. Later in his career, Mr. Sullivan was executive director of the FAA’s rulemaking advisory groups concerning aircraft certification, civil aviation security, flight standards and medical rules. He also helped establish a cabin-safety facility at the Civil Aerospace Medical Institute in Oklahoma City.

After retiring from the FAA in 1994, he continued to work for about a decade as a consultant on aviation and aerospace matters.

William Joseph Sullivan was born in Freeport, Ill., and was a 1957 graduate of the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. He graduated from law school at the University of Wisconsin in 1962.

Mr. Sullivan was a licensed pilot and enjoyed international travel. He lived in Alexandria and served as a legal adviser to the Brookville-Seminary Valley Civic Association.

Survivors include his wife of 54 years, Bette Jo “BJ” Wivel Sullivan of Alexandria; three children, Bridget Sullivan and Mark Sullivan, both of Fairfax County, and Joseph Sullivan of Penfield, N.Y.; two sisters; and five grandchildren.

— Matt Schudel