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Speech – "Sun 'n Fun"

"Sun 'n Fun"
Victoria Wassmer, Lakeland, FL
April 7, 2017

Sun 'n Fun

Good morning, everyone. Thank you for being here today.

I first came to Sun ‘n Fun a few years ago – and to be back in my capacity as the FAA’s Acting Deputy Administrator is a real treat. This event is always a highlight of our year.

So much of our time is spent thinking about the business of aviation, or the politics of aviation.

But here, we get to connect with the heart of aviation – with the passion that inspired Orville and Wilbur Wright and the generations of aviators that followed.

Supporting this community – and finding ways to make it safer and easier for you to fly – is a priority for us at the FAA.

And since last year, we’ve delivered on some of the issues you care most about.

One of them has been at the top of the wish list for some time: an alternative to the FAA’s medical certification.

It comes up every year here at Sun ‘n Fun. It’s often the first question asked during these sessions. And I’m happy to report that change is right around the corner.

As you all know, most pilots have traditionally been required to see an Aviation Medical Examiner and obtain a third-class medical certificate.

This was sometimes a costly and time-consuming process. And after hearing from all of you, Congress and the FAA took action.

We recently issued a new rule that we’re calling BasicMed. Under this program, most GA pilots will be able to fly without holding an FAA medical certificate as long as you meet several education and medical requirements designed to mitigate safety risks.

You’ll need to have a driver’s license and have held a medical certificate within the last ten years. You must complete a medical education course every two years to make sure you understand the flight risks posed by certain conditions and medications.

You’ll still need to have a medical examination every four years from your doctor. And you can’t fly for compensation, with more than five passengers, or in an aircraft weighing more than 6,000 pounds.

These requirements will help us maintain our general aviation safety standards, while making flying more affordable and convenient.

BasicMed is scheduled to go into effect on May 1st. It’s a win for the GA community, and I’m happy we got it across the finish line.

But BasicMed isn’t the only example of how we’re improving our processes.

We’re also rethinking how we certify pilots, as well as the aircraft and equipment you use.

Last summer, after working closely with industry experts, we rolled out our new Airman Certification Standards. They’re the first to integrate knowledge and risk management with the practical skills pilots need to fly safely.

And we’re going to continually refresh these standards in order to keep questions current and address emerging issues. In fact, we’ve already used your feedback to make improvements.

Updated versions of the Airman Certification Standards for the private pilot airplane certificate and the instrument-airplane rating will be available in June – along with the first version of the commercial pilot airplane standards.

We also just recently overhauled how we certify small general aviation aircraft.

For a long time, the FAA told manufacturers how to build a safe airplane by requiring specific technologies. But as companies came up with new and better ideas, our certification processes struggled to keep up.

So we threw out the old rule book.

Instead of prescribing certain technologies and designs, we’re now defining the performance objectives we want to achieve. This lets industry figure out the best and safest ways to meet them.

Manufacturers are already planning to use this increased flexibility to bring experimental aircraft technologies to new small general aviation planes – improving safety and efficiency.

But we’re not going to let the existing GA fleet fall behind. We’re also making it easier to get safety-enhancing equipment into older planes.

We’re creating new policies and working closely with industry to streamline our approval processes so that you can benefit from upgraded technology, lower costs, and higher levels of safety.

Most of these tools are entirely voluntary, but they offer a number of potential safety benefits – like reducing the risk of a loss-of-control crash. So I hope you’ll take the opportunity to look at the options out there and see what might be right for you.

However, the FAA does sometimes have to mandate certain updates to your aircraft in order to maintain the safety of our airspace as a whole.

That’s the case with ADS-B – a key NextGen technology that’s essential to our ongoing air traffic control modernization efforts.  

ADS-B offers GA pilots a lot of benefits. It uses GPS to give you and the controllers you’re working with a more precise location for your aircraft at any given time. It also provides free weather and traffic updates to help you make better-informed decisions in the cockpit.

Despite these benefits, there’s been a lot of hesitation to install this equipment.

Less than 22,000 GA aircraft are currently equipped with ADS-B. But as many as 160,000 planes will need it installed by January 1, 2020. That may sound like a lot of time – but it’s not.

Repair stations around the country are already getting booked up with installation appointments. And the capacity crunch is only going to get worse as we near the equipage deadline.

This isn’t something you want to wait until the last minute to do. The best time to equip is right now.

ADS-B units can be found for as little as $2,000. And the FAA is currently offering eligible aircraft owners a $500 incentive to help off-set the cost even more.

There are more than 15,000 incentives still available – but only through September 18th.

I’m going to say this as plainly as I can: The equipage deadline is not changing. If you plan to fly your plane in most controlled airspace after December 31, 2019, you’re going to need to install ADS-B. And if you don’t do it in the next six months, you’re leaving money on the table.

So check out all of the ADS-B equipment available here at Sun ‘n Fun. Stop by the FAA booth to get more information on our incentive program. And get ahead of the curve and start enjoying all of the benefits ADS-B has to offer.

Thank you for taking the time to be here today.

If one idea has come across in the last few minutes, I hope it’s that the FAA is listening to your concerns and cares about your interests.

We’re all invested in the safety and growth of America’s general aviation community. And by working with each other, and engaging in dialogues like this one, we’ll fly higher than ever before.


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