Michael Huerta, Dallas, Texas
March 9, 2012

2012 Women in Aviation Conference

Thank you, Peggy (Chabrian), for that kind introduction. It’s a pleasure to join you in Dallas today for the Women in Aviation conference. The theme of this year’s conference – Reaching Tomorrow Today – really resonates with me because it very accurately describes what we’re doing in the FAA. And since the FAA’s work plays a pretty important part in the life of anyone who is – or who aims to be – involved in aviation, let me take a few minutes to tell you what we’re doing to reach tomorrow today.

The FAA’s mission is to provide the safest and most efficient aerospace system in the world, and to make it even better tomorrow. The physicist Edward Teller once observed that “the science of today is the technology of tomorrow.” Well, we are putting that idea into practice to build the Next Generation air transportation system, or NextGen – which involves transforming from the ground-based navigation systems of the last century to the satellite-based navigation of tomorrow. NextGen capabilities and technologies are vital to the safe and efficient aviation system our country needs. Civil aviation contributes $1.3 trillion to our economic activity and generates more than 10 million jobs. NextGen is vital to protecting these contributions. The current system just can’t accommodate the level of growth we are expecting to see. In our recent forecast conference, in fact, we predicted that it looks very bright for continued growth of the aviation section.

With NextGen, our aviation system will be even safer and more efficient. Aircraft will burn less fuel and emit fewer greenhouse gases. Pilots will fly more directly, with more efficient routes and more precise approaches. Flight deck technology will allow you to see traffic, terrain, and obstacles in all kinds of weather, day or night.

But here’s where the “reaching tomorrow today” theme is so appropriate: Yes, we are building tomorrow’s air transportation system. But many components of NextGen are in place now, and NextGen is showing results today. The technologies and procedures we have implemented are already a better way of doing business – for the FAA, the airlines, the airports, and the public.

I’m happy to say that we now have very good news for carrying out our plans with NextGen and other areas because the FAA has a new four-year authorization act that authorizes critical programs through FY 2015. There is more good news in the President’s 2013 budget. It proposes $1 billion for NextGen, which is an increase of almost $100 million over what we received in 2012. What these funds will do, is help us expedite NextGen development and deployment.

The total funding request in the 2013 budget for satellite-based routes, such as RNAV and RNP procedures is $78.5 million – a $20 million increase over FY 2012. Some of this funding will go to creating more satellite-based procedures and routes that will relieve bottlenecks, improve safety and efficiency, and foster commerce.

I’d like to talk a little about Performance Based Navigation, because PBN is one of the ways that NextGen is already “reaching tomorrow today” for airspace users.

At Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, we estimate that better flight paths will let airlines operating there fly about 1.2 million fewer miles per year. Combined with other measures, like fuel-saving descents, that translates to a projected fuel savings of about 2.9 million gallons per year and 30,000 fewer metric tons of carbon emissions released into the air. Also in Atlanta, last year we added a departure route that is already allowing Atlanta to handle up to 10 additional planes per hour.

Southwest Airlines estimates it will save $25 in fuel for every mile not flown because of a shorter flight track. And we are creating environmentally friendly Optimized Profile Descents (OPDs), which allow aircraft to save fuel by making managed descents at reduced engine power. In the last year, we implemented four OPDs at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. The total cost saving by just two air carriers there is an estimated $6.4 million per year.

We are also taking steps to streamline the development and deployment of NextGen in airspace around some of our nation’s busiest metropolitan areas. We have launched the design and implementation phase of airspace modernization efforts in Houston, Atlanta and Charlotte. We are underway with this work in Washington, D.C. and north Texas. We will soon start efforts in southern and northern California. We are also looking at ways to improve the complex airspace in New York and Chicago.

The environmental benefits of NextGen are significant as well. Through an initiative called “Greener Skies over Seattle” initiative, airlines using NextGen procedures will save millions of dollars per year. Aircraft will emit about 22,000 metric tons less carbon dioxide eachyear – the equivalent of taking more than 4,000 cars off the streets.

Now let me talk about another important NextGen element. As organizations like Women in Aviation International recognize by creating such powerful opportunities for networking, for support, and for mentoring, a huge part of “reaching tomorrow today.” Why? Because all of that involves building the Next Generation of people who will not just implement the vision of today, but the people who will transform it – and make it even better in the future. NextGen needs the Next Generation of professionals – people like you, with a wide array of skills and a passion for aviation.

When I meet with FAA employees, I like to emphasize that every single one of them has a role to play in the FAA’s safety mission and in building our NextGen air transportation system. That’s true for everyone who is, or who plans to be, involved in aviation. Whether you are interested in flying airplanes, planning the airport of the future, redesigning our airspace, working in air traffic management, or building the quietest, most fuel efficient jet engine ever – we need you. We need all of you in aviation in years ahead.

In keeping with the spirit of reaching tomorrow today, you are the ones who will imagine, and then engineer, innovations in electronics, aircraft maintenance, air traffic control, aviation business management, and so many other for the future of our industry. If you don’t have them already, you will undoubtedly acquire serious responsibilities that demand thoughtfulness, integrity, and professionalism. We need your professionalism, your initiative, and your innovation to keep our country a world leader in aviation.

Organizations such as Women in Aviation International make a powerful contribution in this area. The networking opportunities for career decisions and career development are enormous. I am positive there have already been a lot of contacts and communications already in the short time here in Dallas that will make a difference – not just in the lives of the specific individuals, but also in the overall contributions those individuals will make to our aviation system, and to our nation. I know that Women in Aviation International is also active in mentoring, and I want to thank those who participate – both as mentors and mentees – in this type of personal and professional development.

Looking at all the talent and expertise and enthusiasm in this audience today, I know that we haven't even come close to reaching the limits of technology, and that we will find innovative solutions to the important challenges of building, managing, and improving our aviation system in the years ahead. I can't wait to see the contributions you'll make to the next century of discovery and innovation.

Thank you very much, and now I’ll turn the program back over to Peggy.