"Fostering Open Lines of Communication"
Michael Huerta, Washington, DC
January 23, 2013

Aeroclub


Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary.

I am truly honored by the trust and responsibility that have been placed in me.

And it is such a privilege to work in such an innovative industry that is dedicated to excellence day in and day out.

We all know that as an industry, there are significant challenges that we will face in the next five years.

  • We are operating in a more complex business environment.
  • We must deliver NextGen.
  • And we all know we face more difficult fiscal challenges. 

Yet these challenges also present us with a great opportunity to make decisions that will influence aviation for decades to come.

We have to tackle these challenges together. 

As you know, the FAA’s top mission is safety, and we work to advance safety in every way that we can. Everyone in this room is part of an important network and knowledge base that is going to help us as an industry to move to the next level of safety.

You’ve heard me talk before about three areas we, at the FAA, are focused on.  We aim to enhance safety, and to be smarter about how we approach safety issues. This means taking a proactive and data-driven approach, rather than a reactive, forensic approach.

Safety management systems are an excellent example of how to identify and address issues before they become  problems. Airlines and the FAA are already implementing SMS. 

Second, we are leveraging the benefits of technology and making these benefits available to the traveling public now. As you heard from the Secretary, we are employing NextGen technologies and are seeing the benefits in fuel savings, time savings and lower emissions now.

The transition to NextGen is not a government program alone. We all know that. It is a partnership with industry to deliver an evolution of our airspace and how we use it.  And, it requires collaboration across the board to realize the maximum benefits for everyone.

Lastly, we’re committed to changing the way we do business to meet the demands of growth and to stay abreast of the latest advances in aviation. We are encouraging all of our employees at the FAA to work more creatively to meet these challenges.  Aviation is a dynamic industry where the one thing we can count on is constant change.

We all have a lot to accomplish in the next five years. We’re going to raise the bar on safety. We’re going to continue to increase efficiency. And we’re going to improve the predictability of service.  

As technology advances, our aircraft become more complex. It’s the same with our cars – they are more computerized. And our cell phones hold the computing power of what was once held in a large old main frame computer.

Everything has become more advanced.  This places a premium on transparency and communication between the FAA and those that we regulate.   We need to assure the highest level of safety and to create the best methods and procedures.

We are accustomed to a system of orders, to a system of rules, and to a system of regulations. That is how aviation has been managed for the last 50 years. And while we must be mindful of our respective roles, government and industry need to work together in today’s aviation world.

This might be a new place for some of us. It might be slightly uncomfortable for us to stretch ourselves and create a bridge to where we can appreciate experts from all parties inside and outside of government. But this is essential.

We are all dedicated to ensuring the safest aviation system in the world. And we are all committed to fostering progress and to fostering innovation. If there’s a better way to build something, we’re open to it.  

Aviation from its very beginning has stretched technological boundaries.  And technological change in aviation comes in waves. For more than five decades, the FAA has compiled a proven track record of safely introducing new technology and new aircraft.

As we continue to do this, I want to make one thing crystal clear. The FAA takes very seriously its responsibility to certify aircraft safety standards.

We are moving forward with a review of the critical systems of the Boeing 787, as you all know. When we have a concern, we will analyze it until we are satisfied.

Some have asked the question whether the FAA has the expertise needed to oversee the Dreamliner’s cutting edge technology.  The answer is yes, we have the ability to establish rigorous safety standards and to make sure that aircraft meet them. The best way to do this is to bring together the best minds and technical experts in aviation to work on understanding how these new systems work and how to establish and meet the highest safety standards.

The way to enhance safety is to keep the lines of communication open between business and government – to foster the ability and willingness to share information about any challenges we might be facing and that arise. We want to create an atmosphere where people feel they can share what they know, all in the pursuit of safety.

We all want the same outcome. We want to harness advances in technology to produce the safest aircraft possible.

We will never lose sight of our respective roles, but that does not mean that there is not a seat at the table for bright minds from industry to help inform the best way to navigate the complex technological issues we encounter. It would be short-sighted to overlook anyone’s valuable expertise.

Changing our culture and the way we see ourselves, and refining our respective roles towards a greater collaborative approach, is the best tactic to maintaining the safest aviation system in the world.

I thank you for your willingness to participate and to improve the best and safest aviation system in the world.

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