"Remarks to the National Business Aviation Association's Annual Convention"
J. Randolph Babbitt, Las Vegas, Nevada
October 11, 2011

National Business Aviation Association’s Annual Convention

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery

Thank you, Ed (Bolen).  It’s a pleasure to be here in Las Vegas with the National Business Aviation Association, and I appreciate the opportunity to speak at the NBAA’s 64th Annual Meeting and Convention.    

Let me take a few minutes to talk about what's taking my time back in Washington.  Safety is the FAA's primary mission and top priority.  I'm proud to say that we have the safest aviation system in the world, bar none.  Millions of Americans travel safely through our skies every year.  The business aviation community—and the NBAA in particular—play an important role in achieving that success.  I’ve talked about professionalism, mentoring, and best practices since Day One as FAA Administrator, so I especially appreciate the way this organization is on the leading edge of so many safety-oriented initiatives. 

To highlight just a couple, the NBAA does a tremendous service to the aviation community by providing education, training, and support to help business flight operators develop Safety Management Systems, or SMS.   SMS will make a difference – it’s one of the tools that will elevate us to the next level of safety.  And the NBAA’s work in this area helps demonstrate that SMS is scalable – that it can be tailored to the size and complexity of any organization. 

A related contribution is the NBAA Safety Committee’s work in identifying some best practices for both ground and flight safety programs, and compiling them in its Prototypical Business Aviation Safety Manual.  It gives companies a great starting point to tailor their own safety and risk mitigation programs, and to develop the safety culture that is so fundamental to safe operation.

Safe and efficient operation of our air transportation system is vital to this country’s economic health and well-being.  And it truly is a magnificent system and every segment of the industry is important to us. 

In so many ways, what’s good for aviation is good for America.  After all, civil aviation contributes $1.3 trillion to our economy.  It makes up 5.2 percent of gross domestic product. It generates more than 10 million jobs, with earnings of nearly $400 billion.  And as the NBAA Business Aviation Fact Book reports, the business aviation sector alone provides jobs for over 1.2 million people, with over $150 billion in overall contributions to U.S. economic output.  Those are impressive numbers.  

And that’s why I spend a lot of my time on NextGen – the Next Generation Air Transportation System.  NextGen is a comprehensive transformation of our National Airspace System that's being designed and built to take us to the next level of safety, while also making air travel more convenient, efficient, and dependable.  NextGen is vital to protect and expand the aviation system’s contributions to our economy, because the current system simply cannot accommodate anticipated growth. 

Operators are already benefiting from NextGen performance-based navigation routes and approaches that allow more direct flights to more places and approaches that, in some cases, could otherwise not even be performed.  These approaches enable all-weather access to airports that never had those options before, so companies can better position themselves to meet customer needs and cut costs.  Now for a key point: achieving these and other NextGen benefits depends on operators’ willingness to invest in the equipment and training needed to use this new infrastructure. Because state-of-the-art business aircraft have some of the most sophisticated avionics available today, business aviation is especially well-placed to benefit from the ever-growing network of instrument approach procedures that use our Wide Area Augmentation System.  

We have published more than 2,000 new satellite-based WAAS-LPV approaches and departures at more than 800 airports in the United States.  That means we now have more WAAS-LPV procedures than ILS procedures in this country.  And by adopting streamlining processes that we call NAV-LEAN, we have cut the time it takes to produce a new procedure dramatically allowing everyone to capture the benefits sooner.

Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast — ADS-B — technology is another way NextGen is adding to safety and efficiency right now.  Deployment of ADS-B technology in the Gulf of Mexico has opened up 250 thousand square miles of new, positively controlled airspace in the Gulf.  Helicopters in the Gulf are ferrying as many as 10,000 workers a day out to thousands of oil rigs. Equipped aircraft are saving five to 10 minutes a flight and around 100 pounds of fuel each flight.   And in Colorado, NextGen surveillance technologies are enabling controllers to track aircraft flying through mountain terrain that blocks radar.

Still more benefits are coming from greater efficiency and access.  Industry has asked us to do more to relieve congestion and delays in major metropolitan areas – the “metroplexes.”  So we are working to optimize airspace and procedures in California, Atlanta, Houston, Charlotte, the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and Washington, D.C.   

The kind of transformation we are making with NextGen will continue to create benefits over the longer term.  NextGen operational capability will make our aviation system safer. It will increase controllers’ and pilots’ awareness of and the ability to avoid potential danger.  Appropriately equipped aircraft will be able to receive information about traffic, weather, and flight-restricted areas.  Advances in ground tracking and conflict warnings will make runway incursions less likely. 

And going back to the bottom line:  Our latest estimates show that in the next seven years, NextGen improvements will help us cut carbon dioxide emissions by 14 million tons.  We will save about 1.4 billion gallons of jet fuel, and reduce delays about 35 percent.  That will bring $23 billion in cumulative benefits.

Both now and in the future, the success of NextGen depends on working closely with all segments of the aviation community.  We have established a broad-based NextGen Advisory Committee to provide input, expertise and guidance to the FAA—and I appreciate that Ed Bolen has agreed to serve on this committee.  One of its first assignments is to forge industry consensus on issues like how to equip for NextGen, and how to measure success.  We will work closely with the entire industry to choose and deliver the right technologies. 

As you know, our ability to move ahead depends on funding and stability.  The FAA has been operating on short-term authorization extensions – 22 of them since 2007.   A multi-year reauthorization is critical to restoring stability and predictability to NextGen and other aviation programs.  And we need sufficient and predictable funding levels. 

NextGen is happening now. If we delay investment, the long term cost to our nation – to our passengers and our environment – will far exceed the cost of going forward together now.  We can’t afford not to invest in NextGen. As we continue to work toward our milestones and goals,I’m excited about what we’re doing, and about what we can – and will – do together.  Thank you very much.