"Air Venture"
Michael Huerta, Oshkosh, Wisconsin
July 31, 2014


Thank you, Jack (Pelton, Chairman of EAA and former CEO of Cessna). Good morning, everyone. It’s great to be back at Oshkosh this year and have the opportunity to meet with all of you. 

Events like this help us reconnect with the wonder of flight.

And for me, I think about how far aviation has come. Just think, it was fifty years ago that the Beech King Air flew its first flight. In 1964, the King Air became the first U.S. light twin-engine turboprop to be type-certified. It was the latest in business aviation.

Also fifty years ago this year, the founder of EAA, Paul Poberezny, moved the organization’s headquarters out of the basement of his home to a new building in Franklin, Wisconsin, which was the first home for the EAA. The interest in experimental and light sport aircraft was growing and the association needed to grow with it.

In the last 50 years, the entire aviation industry has matured and grown. Change is a constant. It’s part of that pioneering spirit of aviation – of wanting to explore and push limits.

To make GA safer and better, we need to work together and listen to each other. I value the chance to spend time with you, and to hear what’s on your mind. I’m interested in your opinions, and I am guessing that there is no shortage of them here!  I wouldn’t have it any other way. I look forward to working together with you and EAA and AOPA in a partnership, to address the needs of the general aviation community, and to help GA grow and mature. 

One of the important issues on everyone’s mind is the third class medical certificate. I have heard you loud and clear on this.

As everyone here knows, EAA and AOPA submitted a petition to exempt recreational pilots from needing a third class medical certificate. We asked for public comment on this and we’ve received more than 16,000 comments.  An exemption like this could impact approximately 39,000 pilots according to AOPA and EAA’s own estimates. 

Fundamentally what you’re trying to achieve is a long lasting policy change. A change that effects this many people is typically not done using the exemption route.

Exemptions are usually for very limited circumstances or for limited durations. We do major policy changes through rulemaking. Now, the downside of the rulemaking process is that it does take time. But that is how we get to the fundamental change you all are looking for. We haven’t ruled out the exemption as an interim step, but we don’t want to have it get in the way of expeditiously completing the rulemaking process. My leadership team at the FAA has worked very hard to draft a notice of proposed rulemaking. I have reviewed it and signed it last week. This notice will go through executive review, but our goal is to issue the notice of proposed rulemaking before the end of this year.

The proposed rule will lay out the parameters that define how a person could fly without a third class medical certificate. As you know, if you fly a glider or balloon today, you aren’t required to have a medical certificate at all. We are trying to take a reasonable approach to ensure we maintain the highest levels of safety in recreational flying.  

Everything in aviation changes and grows. Nothing is static. I was reminded of that when we visited the Innovation Pavilion this morning on the way over here.

We checked out the electric airplanes and other inventions. The rate of change in engine technology and navigation is exponential. Soon, what we saw this morning will be yesterday’s models.

At the FAA we are living that spirit of transformation by modernizing our nation’s airspace through NextGen. The changes we are making will allow all of us to take advantage of the benefits of new technology and make our airspace safer and more efficient.

As you may know, this year we finished one of the most crucial foundations of NextGen – the installation of the infrastructure for Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast, or ADS-B.We have installed more than 630 transceivers nationwide. This represents a key milestone in transitioning from a ground-based radar system to satellite-based GPS technology. 

ADS-B Out is one of the foundational elements of NextGen, and it allows us to bring you many benefits.

I know that many of you are concerned about the 2020 mandate to equip for ADS-B Out. There is still a five-and-a-half year window to get it done. But the date is firm. As a nation, we need to modernize our airspace and take advantage of superior GPS capabilities and the enhanced safety and efficiency these capabilities will bring to all of us. I encourage you to equip before the deadline to avoid delays at repair stations as the deadline draws closer.

I also want to remind you that equipage for ADS-B Out will only be required in certain airspace. That airspace is where we require transponders today, so controllers can see you. This of course includes the airspace around busy airports. If you fly in uncontrolled airspace – where no transponder is required today – you don’t need to equip.

We are doing what we can to facilitate low-cost alternatives for the general aviation community.  To meet the minimum requirements for ADS-B Out, you need three things:

  • A rule-compliant GPS receiver
  • A 1090 MHz extended squitter, or a 978 MHz universal access transceiver
  • And an antenna

You can buy just these things, or you can integrate with other technologies and capabilities. We’ve done a lot of work to certify a range of products, and companies are responding.

Thousands of GA aircraft owners have already equipped with ADS-B Out, and I thank you for that. The experimental community is often at the forefront of adopting advanced technology, and you are helping us by flagging difficulties you may have encountered with equipage so far.

We are tracking the installations to date and we have encountered some problems with improper avionics installations and system software configurations.

We want to fix these problems immediately and we are providing a free service where we will verify ADS-B Out avionics performance for you. Just email us and ask us to check your equipment, and we’ll do it. We search a database of flight tracks kept at our Tech Center in Atlantic City, and we can see if you are transmitting correctly.

We have set up a dedicated email account, and last month, we checked 300 aircraft, and helped owners fix issues. Please visit the ADS-B booth in the FAA Safety Center. They have the email address and can help you out.

Equipping for ADS-B brings pilots many advantages. 

We now have ADS-B coverage in remote areas where radar coverage was limited before, such as the Gulf of Mexico, mountainous regions in Colorado, and low altitude airspace in Alaska. This makes flying safer.

Of course, we also have ADS-B coverage here in Wisconsin, the Dakotas, Minnesota and parts of the Northern Great Plains.

ADS-B enables us to determine an aircraft’s location with far greater accuracy than radar. This highly precise surveillance is improving our ability to perform life-saving search and rescue operations. Air traffic controllers have better information about an airplane’s last position, helping to take the “search” out of search and rescue. 

Now that we’ve completed the nationwide installation of the transceivers, ADS-B is bringing free weather and traffic updates to the cockpit from coast to coast. There’s no cost to subscribe. This service had been available in select areas before, but now we truly have nationwide coverage.

ADS-B delivers information about hazardous weather to the cockpit and brings important flight information, such as temporary flight restrictions and notices to airmen.  It also enables general aviation pilots – for the first time – to see much of what air traffic controllers see. Cockpit displays show the location of aircraft in the sky around you, creating an environment of shared situational awareness that enhances safety. When everyone is ADS-B compliant, it will truly be a different world.

Many GA pilots are already enjoying the benefits of GPS and specifically the advantages of WAAS-LPV.

If you are thinking of equipping for WAAS, vendors are selling rule compliant ADS-B Out equipment in a package with WAAS GPS receivers.

Already, more than 74,000 GA aircraft of all types are equipped to be able to use WAAS-LPV approaches. That includes nearly 70,000 recreational and sport GA aircraft (Part 23). This is a huge benefit that NextGen brings to the GA community. WAAS brings better and more reliable access to smaller airports that don’t have an instrument landing system, for example, Half Moon Bay Airport south of San Francisco.

WAAS also improves access to airports that do have an ILS but you can’t use it because the wind has changed and you need to come in from the other end of the runway. If you have to go to an opposite runway end, then WAAS-LPV can get you in. 

WAAS provides a vertically guided approach that allows you to fly into airports in poor weather conditions with minimums as low as 200 feet. It is very similar to a Category I ILS approach. With WAAS, the accuracy of the GPS signal is improved from 20 meters, to about 2 meters in both the horizontal and vertical dimensions.

  • An advantage of using WAAS-LPV is that the signal is more stable.
  • Also, you don’t have to watch out for the critical areas of the runway that protect the ILS.
  • And it improves your ability to file for IFR to an airport with no ILS; or to designate the airport as an alternate.
  • Also, for those airports that do have an ILS, sometimes it’s down, due to construction, but WAAS-LPV can get you in.

We have been steadily working for the last 10 years to bring you this NextGen benefit. These approaches are at 1,676 airports across the country, available for you right now, such as Fort Myers, Fla.; Martha’s Vineyard; and Fulton County Airport at Charlie Brown Field west of Atlanta. 

We have published more than 3,400 WAAS-LPV approaches to runway ends across the country. That’s more than two and a half times the number of ILS procedures (1,281) nationwide. And we’re not done. We intend to develop another 270 WAAS-LPV approaches in the next three years, including at Newcastle, Delaware; Muscatine, Iowa; and Conway, Arkansas.

This represents a significant improvement in safety and efficiency for GA pilots thanks to NextGen.

In addition to adding new procedures across the country, we have also worked very hard to streamline our certification process for GA safety equipment.

I want to share with you the efforts that the FAA has made to cut red tape and really improve the experience of GA pilots in several areas.

First, we have simplified the design approval process for angle of attack indicators, to make it easier for GA pilots to install this safety device in older aircraft.

What this means is that it’s less expensive for the manufacturers to make this important safety device. There’s less paperwork involved. A large percentage of the cost of an aircraft part is solely the cost of documenting the way the company made the part. We’ve streamlined that and brought down the price of the angle of attack indicator from about $6,000 to $1,500 or less.  This indicator can now be installed as a minor alteration, which makes it less costly.

I really encourage those of you with older model aircraft to install this life-saving device.  Just last week we issued an Information for Operators – an “InFO,” that highlights the advantages of using an angle of attack indicator. Loss of control, mainly stalls, accounted for 40 percent of fatal GA accidents over the last decade.

The angle of attack indicator tells you how much lift you have under your wings. It can help you discern if you’re about to stall. There are different kinds of indicators, but many of those for GA are simple, like the ones for the military – they show green, yellow and red. Green is good. You’ve got enough lift.

If we can save just one life by avoiding a loss of control accident, it will be worth it. Please consider adding this important safety equipment to your aircraft.

Second, I want to share with you a new draft advisory circular that encourages an additional qualified pilot to ride in amateur built aircraft for phase one flight testing.  The comment period for this circular ended a few days ago and we’ll be reviewing all of the comments.

The final advisory circular can significantly enhance the safety of experimental aircraft testing by having an expert ride with you. Many times the pilot who built the aircraft may not have prior experience flying that type of aircraft. It’s exactly during the testing phase when it makes sense to have a pilot who is more familiar with the aircraft accompany you. This best practice guidance is an example of the FAA and EAA really working together to make things better for the experimental aircraft community.

Third, we’re also improving the testing and training for airman certification.

The new “Airman Certification Standards” was developed by industry in partnership with the FAA and will improve airman testing and training in ways that benefit everybody. The basics are not changing. But the material is presented in a better way.  We’re integrating standards for aeronautical knowledge and risk management into the flight proficiency skills. The new standards will be the only necessary reference for both knowledge and skill.

To be clear:

  • Standards are not changing.
  • Check rides are not changing.
  • The material is just presented better.

This effort represents a great partnership, and we deeply appreciate the industry’s strong commitment to this.

As always, the FAA’s number one mission is safety. It’s everyone’s job at the FAA, and we appreciate very much the professionalism that all of you display. It’s the dedication to detail, day in and day out, that makes the difference in safety.

This year we are asking pilots to think about the weather when thinking about safety.

Earlier this year we launched our “Got Weather?” campaign with our GA partners—EAA and AOPA along with NBAA, the NTSB, NOAA and others.  You can check it out at faa.gov/go/gotweather

We have a simple premise:  While terrain, model type and pilot experience may vary, the one thing that should unite all pilots is respect for the weather.  Nearly 75 percent of weather-related GA accidents are fatal, according to AOPA.

We are focusing on a new topic each month through the end of the year. In June, we focused on turbulence. This month we’re looking at Flying IFR:  knowing what you’re flying into.  And with summer flying, that means thunderstorms.

Next month, we’ll look at flying into Instrument Meteorological Conditions without meaning to – a common cause of accidents.

The fatal accident rate for GA has remained stagnant the last five years. I think we’d all agree that we’re still not where we want to be.  This year we are down below our not-to-exceed rate by about 10 accidents so far, but we cannot rest or be content with this. We all need to work together to constantly improve our skills and make sure that all of us will continue to enjoy the skies for many years to come.

Right now, I’d like to recognize some very important people we have in the audience today. They are experts in safety and serve as a role model to others. They are the winners of this year’s General Aviation Awards. These folks join a distinguished group of aviation professionals who have won the award over the years here at AirVenture. I would like to acknowledge them. There will be another ceremony later today where they will receive their awards, but I did want to flag these folks for you so that you recognize them as leaders in safety. Winners, please stand when I call your name.

The winner of the Certificated Flight Instructor of the Yearaward is Howard William Wolvington of Issaquah,Washington.

The Aviation Maintenance Technician of the year winner is Max Lloyd Burnette of Rockvale, Tennessee.

From Guilford, Connecticut, we have the winner of the Avionics Technician of the Year award – David Brian Kocak.

And last but not least, the FAA Safety Team Representative of the year is Richard Loren Stowell Jr. of McCall, Idaho.

Please join me in congratulating these outstanding aviation safety leaders.

I want to thank you for your attention this morning. AirVenture is all about reconnecting with the thrill of flight and the enjoyment we get from exploring the skies. I salute your commitment to improving your skills as pilots and to passing on your knowledge and wisdom to other pilots, and to young and old who are just starting to discover the field we know and love.

Thank you very much.

Jack, I know we’re going to questions now, but before we do, I’d like to introduce my FAA safety team that’s joining me today.  Would the FAA employees please stand up and face the audience? Please acknowledge when I call your name.