"Building a Seamless Global Airspace"
Michael Huerta, Washington, DC
October 30, 2013

TDA US – India Aviation Summit


Thank you, Henry, (Steingass) for that introduction. It is a pleasure to be here today, and to see so many of my colleagues from industry and government. And, I extend a special welcome to our friends from India.

I would first like to say a sincere thank you to both the U.S. Trade and Development Agency for sponsoring this event, and to the American Association of Airport Executives, for coordinating this week’s meetings. Events like these are crucial to expanding business and trade, and for improving cooperation across borders.

We are here during a time of rapid change in aviation. I frankly am in awe of how far aviation has come over the past several decades. Safety has made great leaps. New aircraft are smarter and more energy efficient. The latest technologies are transforming the way we manage air traffic. And, we now enjoy expanded aviation networks across the globe that link us to one another, and to the far reaches of the world.

Because of these increased aviation connections, the link between Asia and the United States continues to grow stronger. Our 2013 Forecast Report shows that air travel between Asia and the United States is anticipated to remain one of the healthiest markets. And, as Asian economies expand, we’ll likely see this increase in air traffic continue. In India, in particular, it is projected that you will see aviation grow by leaps and bounds in the coming decades. With this strong growth and a world that is evermore linked, an open dialogue is important.

As two of the world’s major democracies and large economies, it is vital that we have strong connections. Despite challenging economic times, trade between the United States and India grew substantially between 2009 and 2012, and we expect it to continue to increase. This growth is due in part to positive aviation links.

And, as we strengthen our ties, we must involve both government and industry. It is vital that government understands from industry how changes in the public sector can affect operations. And, it is crucial that industry hears why governments make the decisions we do.

The Aviation Cooperation Program that we have in place between the U.S. and India is a positive mechanism for expanding this public – private relationship. I’m pleased that it remains an active vehicle for communication between our governments and businesses. This helps support aviation modernization and trade.

I would also encourage both government and industry to capitalize on existing groups to share safety information and best practices. ICAO, of course, remains an important piece in the safety of aviation, and its technical groups are making tremendous progress in certain areas of the world. Thanks to the ICAO Regional Aviation Safety Group for Asia, safety harmonization and coordination is reaching a new level across the Asian continent.

Safety is not a competitive business. Sharing information that could potentially affect the safety of flight in any country is crucial, and we need to invest time and effort in forums such as the regional groups that support this collaboration. And, this will all be enhanced by the recent endorsement at the ICAO Assembly of the Global Aviation Safety Plan. This multilateral effort allows us to approach safety on a global basis.

An effective and solid safety oversight program is paramount for the success of any country’s aviation system. The culture of effective safety oversight starts at the very top of an organization, and filters down to every level. Each aviation authority must maintain a strong safety structurewithin the global context.

We will also enhance safety by changing the way we manage air traffic control, and by taking advantage of new technology. Here in the United States, we are transforming the way we manage air traffic through NextGen. We are evolving from ground-based radar to a satellite-based system of tomorrow. This will help us move more air traffic efficiently, while reducing flight times and emissions.

This upgrade to satellite-based technology is beginning in many locations across the globe. And a way to help further that progress is the ICAO Global Air Navigation Plan that was endorsed at the ICAO Assembly. This plan helps to harmonize and advance air traffic management globally. It provides a framework for countries to improve the capacity of their air traffic systems.

With the tremendous growth in air traffic around the globe, we must make these upgrades and modernize our system. If we don’t, the price we will pay in lost efficiency and economic productivity will outweigh the costs of the upgrades and changes. Let’s not miss out on economic expansion because of equipment that is no longer compatible or usable with the rest of the world. And, economic growth is also bolstered by airports that have invested in long-term planning with the objective of meeting the growing aviation demand of the future.

We all share the common path of continuously improving aviation. The United States seeks to partner more with other countries and regions as we all develop new technologies. These systems must be interoperable, even as we maintain technological independence in our own countries.

Of course, all of our growth and upgrades must be done in the context of responsible environmental policies. We owe it to one another, and to future generations, to ensure that expanding or changing the airspace and airport infrastructure is done prudently while minimizing the impact to our environment. We need to continue to research and develop alternative fuels. The way of the future is to invest in equipment and aircraft that create more efficient routes and fewer emissions.

Collaboration with one another is the key to success on environmental issues. Since 2006, the FAA has worked with other governments, regional groups, and industry partners to research, develop, and deploy alternative jet fuels through the Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative, or CAAFI. And, countries across the globe have made great strides in developing, producing and using alternative fuels in other modes of transportation. We can all learn from this work. Efforts to create a sustainable, alternative jet fuel, as well as development of new aircraft bodies and more efficient engines, will protect the environment for generations to come.

And, as we seek to ensure aviation is environmentally sustainable, it is once again vital that we continue to work through the multilateral process to find practical and collaborative solutions.

As we celebrate the inherent international connection in aviation, let us acknowledge the tremendous accomplishments we have seen in flight throughout the world. And, by agreeing to move forward collaboratively, we will continue to see growth, trade, and expansion across the globe, linking us all even closer.

The solid partnerships between countries like India and the United States will not only lead the way for more trade, investment, and development in aviation, but will also serve as a model for other countries around the world to work across borders.

Thank you, again, for inviting me here today, and I wish you much success for the Summit.

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