The FAA has two types of technical experts who support one another and help the agency stay up to date on the latest advances in aviation so that we continuously rise to the next level of safety and remain the safest and largest aerospace system in the world. Below is a description of the two types of experts.
Chief Scientific Technical Advisors (CSTA)
The FAA's Chief Scientific and Technical Advisors (CSTA) have a primary responsibility to support continued operational safety of aircraft worldwide and to help guide certification of aerospace products. Their secondary priorities consist of conducting research & development, offering education & training, giving technical advice, and launching initiatives of their own.
The CSTA's main concern is continued operational safety. They are heavily involved in safety risk mitigation activities, such as developing rules and regulations, policy, guidance, and technical standards. Implementing these activities helps ensure that industry is doing everything they can to create a safe and reliable aircraft. If a malfunction were to occur, the CSTA would support industry and government in their investigation of accidents or incidents. The CSTA tries to determine the root cause of the malfunction, aid industry/government in conducting fleet inspections, and also coordinate with the National Transport Safety Board (NTSB). Conducting these tasks helps the CSTA create new rules, policies, and standards which keeps operational safety performing at its best.
The second primary priority that the CSTA is involved with is certification. Since the CSTA is a leader in their technical discipline, they are often asked to support the FAA and industry on technical issues relating to their particular subject matter. Similarly, they are happy to give recommendations and discuss possible solutions to the technical issue at hand. After they have answered any queries, they are then responsible for reviewing the developments of the certification, the process itself, and also ensuring the certification is completed. These activities help in achieving the FAA's mission of providing the safest, most efficient aerospace in the world.
The first of the CSTA's four secondary activities is research and development. Each CSTA is vigorously involved in identifying, researching, and evaluating new and emerging technologies. While in the process of these activities, they are acutely aware of safety threats and continually work on troubleshooting such dangers. They lead and direct testing, evaluation, and finding solutions to unsolved problems and/or tracking industry implementation of new technologies. Being actively involved in these functions allows them to influence and monitor research and development worldwide.
Their next priority, education and training, takes what they have experienced from all of the previously mentioned tasks and implements that knowledge into educating and training all that are involved in the aerospace industry, with some priority given to those having aviation safety oversight. The CSTA develops training materials and courses so that others can learn how to operate more safely and effectively. They attend numerous seminars and workshops because it keeps them up to date on the latest technologies and processes, which they can then pass down to those in Industry and the FAA. In some cases, the CSTA leads the workshops or forums to ensure that safe industry practices are properly benchmarked.
Their third priority is to offer technical advice, which they do by actively participating in committees, working groups, and other forums worldwide. For example, senior executives, managers, aerospace engineers, and safety inspectors all come to them for their valued input.
Their last priority is to use all of their expertise and develop and publish their own technical and scientific papers based on the current needs of the FAA and industry.
Senior Technical Specialists (STS)
A Senior Technical Specialist (STS) is a go-to expert in the FAA for their highly-specialized discipline. They provide the FAA with guidance, develop rules, policies, and training curriculums, and represent the FAA in committees and task groups. The STS applies their collective experiences in these unique technical fields to benefit the FAA organization and their expertise has proven to be invaluable.
Many FAA employees go directly to the STS for guidance because they have a high level of specialized operational and technical expertise. Crucial observations have been made by the STS that have helped the FAA solve many problems regarding their discipline, and they have become a reliable technical and regulatory focal point for all issues relating to their subject matter. When a STS exists in a complementary technical field, the STS may also support work performed by a CSTA.
Senior Technical Specialists also help develop FAA regulations and standards, national policies, and directives to implement procedures and practices. These innovative regulations and policies complement industry's advances while keeping aviation safety at the forefront. Furthermore, they contribute their expertise to help create training curriculum and materials. Doing this keeps their technical specialties up-to-date. The STS then uses the curriculum and materials to help train and qualify many employees in the FAA and industry.
In addition, the STS represents the FAA in several national and international industry committees and task groups. They are a key member that often makes significant contributions to the committees' and task group's final recommendations. Finally, the STS is a recognized industry leader in the qualification, regulation, development, and advancement of alternative technologies. It is their duty to find the safest and most efficient technologies and share that information with those around them. They are constantly on the search for these new, innovative technologies that can help the FAA and industry ultimately improve the quality and safety of the aerospace community as we move forward.
The Senior Technical Specialists and Chief Scientific and Technical Advisors play an invaluable role at the FAA and the aerospace industry because they listen, examine, participate, and continuously learn about their fields of expertise. They have the talent to take their technical expertise and combine it with the experience of a life-long career in their field to lead the FAA in new and positive directions.