"Asian Business Aviation Conference & Exhibition"
Michael Huerta, Shanghai, China
April 15, 2014

Asian Business Aviation Conference & Exhibition

Thank you very much for the introduction.  I appreciate the opportunity to speak with you today.  It is a pleasure to be here in Shanghai – it is a fascinating city. 

The link between Asia and the United States continues to grow stronger by the day, and this is largely thanks to aviation.  Our forecast, in fact, shows that air travel between Asia and the United States will continue its robust growth over the next decade.  And, as Asian economies expand, we’ll see this increase in air travel and linkages between our aviation sectors.  Given this strong expansion, an open dialogue is more important than ever. 

In addition to creating safe, efficient, and reliable commercial air links between our countries, the United States also wants China to benefit from expanded general and business aviation sectors.  In the United States, we have a fleet of about 220,000 general aviation aircraft, two thirds of which are for "personal use".

This group forms the foundation of our aviation system.  It supplies pilots and mechanics, it supports and maintains infrastructure, and it embodies the enthusiasm and passion that sustains the industry.

While China's general aviation industry remains relatively young, it is poised for tremendous growth.  We look forward to more policies being implemented that will help the industry safely grow to its full potential.

As our ties grow, and as the world becomes more interconnected, we must ensure a strong dialogue and partnership between government and the aviation industry if we are to deliver the economic and social benefits to our citizens on either side of the Pacific.  Neither can deliver the full benefits that aviation offers by operating alone; rather, there must be an effective partnership and complimentary roles.  General and business aviation is a perfect example of where this dialogue must take place.

To steer the growth and changes in aviation, I recently rolled out my vision for the FAA for the next several years.  Safety and global leadership are two of the main components of my vision.  We have to be engaged internationally.  In the United States, we want global aviation to be safer, more efficient and environmentally friendly.  We want to work with other countries to help set the standards for safety and technology around the world.   

Given the increase in air traffic around the globe, we need to ensure that all of our efforts are well-coordinated across borders.  We need to foster harmonized standards and an open, consultative approach to facilitate the safety of air travel across the globe.  No one country or region can do it alone – we must work together to improve safety and efficiency, and to protect the environment. 

We’ve seen rapid changes in aviation over the last several decades.  Safety has made great improvements.  New aircraft are more cost effective 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.

Despite these great advances, we must not lose sight of the basic foundation, which is safety.  It is our main priority at the FAA, as I know it is elsewhere.  We all face the challenge of how to accommodate growth, while always enhancing safety.  But, we need to recognize that these are not two different goals.  Ultimately, effective safety is just plain good business. 

And, this extends to general and business aviation, as well.  As general and business aviation continues to grow, and aircraft become more sophisticated, this is crucial.  Just two weeks ago, the FAA announced the start of a year-long general aviation project aimed at safety data-sharing.  We are demonstrating the capabilities of the Aviation Safety Information Analysis and Sharing program for the general aviation community.  Along with industry, we are working through the General Aviation Joint Steering Committee to use data to identify safety risks and emerging trends.  It is a proactive way to measure and analyze safety.  We will use this information to help prevent accidents in the future, rather than waiting for the next accident to happen and then responding and determining its cause.

This proactive approach is also part of the strategic initiatives for the FAA.  To maintain and improve our safety record, we want to use safety data before accidents and incidents occur. 

We are also addressing the human factors area of aviation, as well.  Fatigue is an important safety issue and we addressed this through new flight and duty time limitations and rest requirements for commercial pilots.  This rule became effective on January 14 of this year, and it revised pilot flight and duty regulations.  It is one of the biggest shifts in pilot requirements in the last 20 years.  It addresses duty time and rest issues that directly affect pilots of U.S. commercial operators.

In November 2013, we also issued a rule noting that carriers must implement training programs within five years to train pilots to recognize, avoid and recover from stalls.  This is an area where we cannot lose focus.  Manual handling skills are still important in today’s automated environment.

Additionally, we have published advisory circulars to address fitness for duty, fatigue awareness, flight crew rest facilities, and fatigue risk management.  These circulars will deal with key issues that can have a direct impact on safety.  These improvements will help us to maintain and advance safety as aviation continues to expand and grow. 

The challenge is to keep the system safe going forward, especially as our airspace grows and utilization changes.  Our risk-based initiative does just that – it seeks to gather and review data before an accident or incident occurs.  It also creates a program that is more transparent to system users. 

As our system continues to evolve, we are also focusing on the introduction of new users into the National Airspace System.  Unmanned Aircraft Systems and commercial space operators offer new opportunities for us.  Our primary focus is to introduce these users safely into our airspace. 

We must ensure that unmanned systems are integrated in a measured, systematic manner.  These aircraft are distinctly different from manned aircraft.  They offer great benefits to many, but we must ensure that we first have enough data to effectively integrate them.      

Space transportation is another area with great possibilities.  As this business grows, we face important decisions.  One of our main tasks is to accommodate the increased number of launches.  Usable airspace is a limited resource, and safety considerations require careful coordination of aviation and space activity. 

Influencing all of our changes in aviation is modernization.  Back in the U.S., for example, we are transforming the way we manage air traffic through NextGen, the Next Generation Air Transportation system.  We are evolving from ground-based radar to a satellite-based system, and one of the key goals of my agency is to continue NextGen’s implementation.  

NextGen is moving air traffic more efficiently, while reducing flight times and reducing emissions.  This has a direct impact on both the safety and environmental footprint of flight, and industry is actively involved in this program.  There are many NextGen benefits for all aviation. 

In today’s world, 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 changes are done prudently, while minimizing the impact to our environmental footprint.  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.  We strongly support the work ongoing at ICAO to find ways to address international aviation’s greenhouse gas emissions–including a global market-based measure.  We are encouraged by the good participation across the world–including China–in this effort to find practical, cost-effective solutions.

As you can see, we have much to be proud of in aviation.  We have come a long way in just decades.  And, new changes will continue to transform our industry.  We should embrace these changes, while remembering our fundamental safety mission.  

Thank you, again, for your kind invitation–it is a pleasure to be with you today.  I appreciate the opportunity to speak with you, and I look forward to our continued collaboration.  Thank you.