"Partnership in Aviation"
Michael Huerta, Palm Springs, California
October 12, 2012

AOPA 2012 Aviation Summit

Thank you, Craig (Fuller), for that introduction.  It is an honor to be here today, and to see such a great turnout. 

I’d like to first recognize the strong collaboration between the FAA and AOPA over the years.  I truly appreciate this partnership as we all work toward our common goal–to enhance safety.  Our ability to achieve this goal is stronger when government and industry work together. 

At the top of our list is the same thing you think about every time you get into the cockpit: keeping it safe.

This is where our partnership is so critical.  We have a host of internet tools and educational materials to help you plan and execute a safe flight.  With a couple of mouse clicks, you can get weather, NOTAMs, graphic TFRs, and file your flight plan.  You can get IFR procedures for more than 7,600 airports.

And starting this fall, our FAAST team will be giving you access to a continuous stream of easy-to-grasp bytes of aeronautical knowledge custom tailored to your preferences.  And then you take over.

Your role in our partnership is really the most critical. It’s up to you to put all that information into a cohesive flight plan.  It’s up to you to use the most powerful computer you have–your brain–to make sound aeronautical judgments that will get you from Point A to Point B safely.

You know, the FAA keeps a lot of safety statistics.  We track accidents and incidents and their associated rates. And the numbers are not improving.  Over the last several years, we have had a flat line accident rate.  We have missed our targets for improvement in GA accident rates over the last four years. 

But this isn’t just about the numbers.  We never forget that there are faces behind those numbers.  We don’t just want to meet the annual safety milestones in our business plans for the sake of being able to say we made our goals.  We genuinely want to keep you – whether you’re a novice or a pilot with several thousand flying hours – from becoming one of those statistics.

Still, we have to pay attention to the numbers as we focus squarely on safety.  Our goal is to reduce the GA fatal accident rate by 10 percent over a 10-year period.  In-flight loss of control continues to be the leading cause of GA accidents, and it accounts for about 70 percent of such events. 

Also, roughly 80 percent of fatal accidents are directly related to human factors.  Just as with commercial aviation, we’re focused on reducing general aviation accidents by using proactive and data-driven strategies to hit the targets that mean so much to all of us. 

There are many extra measures that you can utilize to help reduce accidents in the GA community.  I ask you to commit to a personal safety check.  The four points of the check focus on safety before, during and after the flight.  It encompasses the whole picture. 

So, our respective partnership roles will help us move to the next level of safety.  At the same time, we’re trying to make flying more efficient and cost effective. NextGen is the key to both of these efforts.

To enhance safety, it is the FAA’s priority to promote the benefits of new technology for aviation system users.  And, NextGen is transforming our airspace with the help of many of these new technologies.  We all play a part–in both the private and public sectors–in moving toward an aviation system that will be safer and more efficient.  NextGen will create more direct routes, fewer delays, more predictability, and a safer system. 

You may ask how NextGen benefits the general aviation community.  NextGen will provide increased safety, situational awareness, and access for GA users.  For example, by now you’re probably all aware that in Alaska, GA users utilizing NextGen capabilities (ADS-B) had a much lower accident rate than those not using the technology.  And, those of you using WAAS avionics today are enjoying safe access to thousands of runways that were not available to you previously in low visibility conditions.

Related to safety, I am happy to say that earlier this year, we published a study on the benefits of GA airports.  It shows how far these airports have come and how much of an asset they are to the United States, from providing safe access for remote communities to facilitating life-saving medical flights.

I also want to take this opportunity to ask for your assistance in giving us a better snapshot of GA in the United States.  As you may know, the 34th GA Survey is underway and is available online.  Data collected from this survey will help in deciding funding for various projects.  It will also assist in determining the impact of regulatory changes, and it will measure aviation safety.  Your valuable data will help the entire GA community.

In closing, let me say that as we move forward, we have many challenges in front of us, and a large mandate. 
I am confident, however, that by working in partnership, we can achieve these goals and create an even safer aviation system for the next generation.

Thank you, again, for the invitation to be here today, and I look forward to further discussion.