Chief Scientific Technical Advisors (CSTA)

The CSTA job can be broken down into six different priorities; two primary and four secondary. Their primary priorities consist of continued operational safety and certification. While their secondary priorities consist of research & development, education & training, technical advising, and starting their own initiatives.

First and foremost, the main concern of a CSTA is that of continued operational safety. They are heavily involved in safety risk mitigation activities, such as developing rules and regulations, policy guidance, and technical standards. Implementing these activities helps make certain that industry is doing everything they can to create a safe and reliable aircraft. Unfortunately, sometimes a malfunction can occur and it becomes the CSTA’s duty to support industry in their investigation of accidents or incidents. The CSTA tries to determine the root cause of the malfunction, aids industry in conducting fleet inspections, and also coordinates with the National Transport Safety Board (NTSB). Conducting these tasks helps the CSTA create new rules, policies, and standards which continues to ensure that operational safety is at its best. The second primary priority that the CSTA is involved with is certification. Since the CSTA is a leader in their technical discipline, they are often asked to support the FAA and industry on technical issues relating to their subject matter expertise. Similarly, they are happy to assist in giving recommendations and discussing possible solutions to the technical issue at hand. After they have helped answer any queries, they are then responsible for reviewing the developments of the certification, the process itself, and also ensuring that the certification is being complied. These activities help in achieving the FAA’s mission of "providing the safest, most efficient aerospace in the world."

The first of the CSTA’s four secondary activities is research and development. Each CSTA is vigorously involved in identifying, researching, and evaluating new & emerging technologies. While in the process of these activities, they are acutely aware of safety threats and continually work on troubleshooting such dangers. They lead and direct testing, evaluation, and finding solutions to unsolved problems and/or tracking industry implementation of new technologies. Being actively involved in these functions helps them to influence and monitor research and development worldwide. Their next priority, education and training, takes what they have experienced from all of the previously mentioned tasks and implements that knowledge into educating and training all that are involved in the aerospace industry, with some priority given to those having aviation safety oversight. The CSTA develops training materials and courses so that others can learn how to operate more safely and effectively. They are also adamant about attending seminars and workshops because it ensures that they are constantly keeping up to date on the latest technologies and processes, which they can then pass down to those in the Industry and the FAA. In some cases, the CSTA leads the workshops or forums to ensure that safe industry practices are properly benchmarked. Furthermore, the CSTA actively participates in committees and working groups worldwide that are related to their technical discipline. Technical advising is also a major part of the CSTA role. They serve as experts in their technical specialty to many people in the FAA and industry. For example, senior executives, managers, aerospace engineers, and safety inspectors all come to them for their valued input. Finally, due to the amount of exposure they have in the aerospace world, they can easily develop and publish their own technical and scientific papers based on the current needs of the FAA and industry.

Senior Technical Specialist (STS)

A STS is a go-to expert in the FAA for their highly-specialized discipline. They provide the FAA with guidance, develop rules & policies, help to develop training curriculum, represent the FAA in committees & task groups, and is always on the lookout for new, innovative technologies. The STS applies their collective experiences in these unique technical fields to benefit the FAA organization and their expertise has proven to be invaluable to their subject matter.

Many people from the FAA come directly to the STS for guidance because they have a high level of specialized operational and technical expertise. Crucial observations have been made by the STS that have helped the FAA solve many problems regarding their discipline, and they have become a reliable technical and regulatory focal point for all issues relating to their subject matter. When a STS exists in a complementary technical field, the STS may also support work performed by a CSTA. The next area a STS participates in is developing FAA regulations & standards, national policies, and directives to implement procedures and practices. The developed innovative regulations and policies complement the industry’s advances in the areas of their expertise while keeping aviation safety of utmost importance. Furthermore, their expert guidance has been sought out to help create training curriculum and materials. Doing this keeps their technical specialties current with the state of the art techniques. The STS takes the curriculum and materials created to help train and qualify many employees in the FAA and industry. In addition, the STS represents the FAA in several national and international industry committees and task groups. They are a key member that often makes significant contributions to the committees’ and task group’s final recommendations. Finally, the STS is a recognized industry leader in the qualification, regulation, development, and advancement of alternative technologies. It is their duty to find the safest and most efficient technologies and share that information with those around them. They are constantly on the search for these new, innovative technologies that can help the FAA and industry to ultimately improve the quality and safety of the aerospace community as we move forward.

Conclusion

The ability to monitor the world and listen, examine, participate, and learn from others in the aerospace industry are what really make a CSTA and STS invaluable. They have the talent to take their technical expertise combined with things they have learned throughout their career to continually lead the FAA in the right direction.