Michael Huerta, Las Vegas, NV
October 10, 2017
2017 NBAA Convention
Remarks as Prepared for Delivery
Thank you for that introduction, Ed [Bolen], and good morning everyone.
It’s great to be here in Las Vegas with all of you again.
I want to begin by recognizing a few distinguished guests in the crowd.
U.S. Senator Jerry Moran of Kansas.
Congresswoman Dina Titus, who represents Nevada’s 1st Congressional District.
NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt.
And a man who is a true pioneer in American aviation – Apollo 13 Commander Jim Lovell.
I think I can speak for everyone in saying it’s an honor to have all of you here with us today.
Before I get started, I want to take a moment to express my condolences on last week’s tragic shooting and to thank those who extended a helping hand in the aftermath.
It was truly an event that touched us all. One of our FAA employees was shot and seriously injured as he attempted to shield his wife from gunfire.
Another, an air traffic controller from our Las Vegas tower, was also in the crowd. As soon as she was able to reach a safe spot, she called the control tower and warned the crew to keep aircraft from straying into the line of fire.
She then made her way into work, where spent the rest of the evening helping coordinate the FAA’s efforts to respond to the unfolding situation.
We are truly grateful that both employees were able to escape with their lives and we remember those who were not so fortunate.
Looking out at this crowd, it’s an understatement to say the National Business Aviation Association has come a long way from its first formal meeting, almost exactly 70 years ago, in Room 101 of the Biltmore Hotel in New York City.
Back then, in 1947, the U.S. Civil Aeronautics Authority first began testing radar precision landing equipment at airports in Washington and Chicago. And the NBAA had 19 member companies.
This week, many of you probably flew precision approaches into one of the airports around here. And today, the NBAA has more than 10,000 member companies.
The ramp over at Henderson Executive Airport is a brightly colored tapestry of Aviat Huskies and Beechcraft Bonanzas woven among Gulfstreams and Honda Jets. The scores of aircraft displayed there speak to the diversity of your organization’s membership.
And the presence of these aircraft is a powerful reminder to any onlooker that general aviation helps to propel the U.S. economy.
It is a reminder that general aviation has been at the forefront of innovation since the earliest days of flight.
Today, when I look at any kind of general aviation aircraft, I find myself thinking about the tremendous role GA operators played in the recent relief efforts for Hurricanes Harvey and Irma and Maria.
In the days immediately following the storms, when vehicles couldn’t access hard-hit areas, GA pilots quickly swooped in to deliver countless tons of life-saving water and other supplies to storm victims.
Many private individuals and corporations sent their jets to not only deliver supplies, but they also helped relocate many people whose homes were rendered uninhabitable.
That’s the kind of contribution that cannot be quantified in hard numbers alone. It’s a shining example of the true American spirit.
It has always been a pleasure and privilege to speak to the NBAA. But I have to admit, occasions such as this are becoming somewhat bittersweet for me.
As you probably know, my term as FAA Administrator is nearing an end. So this will be the last time I address you as a group.
I have a particularly long and strong relationship with your president and CEO. In fact, my history with Ed Bolen predates my time with the FAA.
You see, Ed was one of the first people I met when I came to Washington after I joined the Department of Transportation in the early 1990s.
It didn’t take me long to realize that Ed is extremely knowledgeable and passionate about aviation. And that he’s known throughout the industry for his strong advocacy of general aviation – first at the General Aviation Manufacturers Association and more recently with NBAA.
The depth of his knowledge, combined with an extremely thick Rolodex, has enabled Ed to skillfully maneuver in corporate boardrooms as well as the corridors of Congress.
The beneficiaries are those who love to fly. And, I might add, the FAA.
Ed has made tremendous contributions as a member of our NextGen Advisory Committee, helping to determine priority areas where we can deliver the greatest amount of benefit in the near term.
And the NBAA under his leadership has provided critical support to the FAA on a number of important issues.
First and foremost among them, of course, is safety. It’s the main reason we’re all here today.
But there’s also the deployment of satellite navigation. ADS-B equipage. And the streamlining of the aircraft and aviation products certification process. To name just a few.
Before I go any further, I want to acknowledge that there’s an 800-pound gorilla in this room. And that gorilla is the future of aviation in this country.
Since I joined the FAA, the government has been shut down twice, we have weathered the sequester, and we’ve grappled with financial uncertainty resulting from some two dozen short-term reauthorization extensions.
That is not how the world’s best aviation system should be run.
Today, a debate is raging in Washington about how the FAA should be structured and funded.
It is a conversation that is long overdue, and one in which all of those with a stake in the future of aviation must be included.
The very definition of what aviation is has changed dramatically in the last few years. You are beginning to share the nation’s airspace with new typed of vehicles, ranging from small unmanned aircraft to what will soon become a burgeoning space tourism industry.
Now is the time to have a meaningful discussion about how we can improve the services we deliver today – while preparing for an increasingly complex and growing set of users in the future.
As always, our goal is to provide the traveling public and all airspace users a safe and efficient air traffic system that is second to none.
And modernization is key to our ability to meet the growing demand in our aviation system.
We look forward to a reauthorization that helps the FAA build on its unparalleled safety record and continues modernizing our air traffic control system. We also must ensure that one of our nation’s most valuable assets – the air above our heads – remains available to all users.
Now, NBAA has not exactly been shy about expressing its position on this red-hot issue. Then again, NBAA has never exactly been shy about expressing its positions on any issue that’s important to its membership.
I want to encourage you and every other voice in this debate to carefully consider the many – and sometimes competing – viewpoints that are being expressed.
We must not allow ourselves to dig in so deeply to our own position that the debate becomes a volley of talking points that we lob past one another. This should be a conversation, not a team sport.
Disagreement can be a good thing when both sides listen to each other and agree to collaborate rather than draw lines in the sand.
In fact, if I were asked which one, single word best sums up my approach to running the FAA, I would have to say it’s collaboration.
It’s no secret that in the past, many people in the agency saw themselves as the aviation police, and those we regulated often regarded us with suspicion.
But over the years, the way we see our role – and the way we approach regulation – has dramatically evolved.
Make no mistake – we’re still the regulator, and our top priority will always be ensuring that the world’s most complex airspace system remains the world’s safest airspace system.
But we came to recognize that a collaborative approach–an approach based on trust, respect and a shared commitment to putting safety first – is necessary for us to achieve a safer and more efficient system.
That’s what our new Compliance Philosophy is all about. Compliance Philosophy recognizes that to find and fix safety problems, there has to be an open and transparent exchange of information and data between the FAA and industry.
We don’t want operators who might inadvertently make a mistake to hide it because they have a fear of being punished. It recognizes everyone has an ownership stake in safety.
The NBAA has always embraced its ownership stake in safety. Your extensive safety outreach efforts are a critical component of what the FAA and the entire general aviation community are doing to address the top causes of fatal GA accidents.
And we have made some impressive progress along the way.
Several years ago, the FAA and the general aviation community set a goal of achieving a 10 percent reduction in the GA accident rate by 2018. That would equate to one fatal accident per every 100,000 flight hours.
Well, we reached that goal in 2015. And the rate has continued to trend downward. Through July 31 of this year, it was at 0.81 fatal accidents per 100,000 flight hours.
That’s a remarkable achievement, and it has taken all of our efforts to get there. And I know we are all committed to driving the accident rate down even more.
Because a fatal accident isn’t just a statistic. A fatal accident is a lost mother, father, child, sibling and friend, as many of you know all too well.
The GA community’s participation in the Aviation Safety Information Analysis and Sharing system, or ASIAS, also speaks to your commitment to safety.
When we first started inputting GA operations into ASIAS in 2013, two operators stepped forward to provide their data to the program.
Today, just four years later, 59 out of the 60 corporate business participants in ASIAS are NBAA members.
Other NBAA members have embraced data-sharing tools that have been developed for the GA community, providing us with exponentially more valuable safety data to analyze and to learn from.
It isn’t just in safety that NBAA has been a crucial partner. You’ve also been a strong advocate for getting operators to equip their aircraft with ADS-B by the Jan. 1, 2020 deadline.
As you know, all aircraft flying in controlled airspace must be equipped with ADS-B Out by that date. The deadline was set during President George W. Bush’s administration, and it is not going to change.
But no matter how many times we say that, too many GA aircraft owners are delaying taking their planes in for these upgrades. Only about 30,000 are currently in compliance, while a much larger number will need to get equipped to operate in most controlled airspace.
ADS-B is essential to the future of American aviation. It gives us a much safer and more accurate picture of our airspace.
Manufacturers are offering units for as little as $2,000. There is every reason to equip, and no reason not to.
The NBAA has provided invaluable support in pushing this message out to aircraft owners. The FAA can’t do this on our own, and I thank you for your efforts to date–and for what I know will be your continuing efforts as the deadline looms even closer.
Now, collaboration isn’t just something we engage in on the safety side of the equation.
Over the years, aircraft and technology manufacturers expressed frustration with how the FAA certified new products. They complained that our rigid certification process was stifling innovation.
We considered their concerns, and realized they made a valid point. The creativity of the brilliant minds that work in this field required the FAA to take a more flexible approach toward certifying new products.
So we rewrote our airworthiness standards for smaller general aviation aircraft.
We’re no longer telling manufacturers how to build these aircraft. What we’re doing now is defining the safety goals we want to achieve and giving industry the leeway to come up with innovative solutions.
Our new rule went into effect in August. It’s a powerful shot of adrenaline into the massive general aviation sector, which contributes about $80 billion and 400,000 jobs to our national economy.
It’s also going to speed the rate at which important safety technologies fly from the drawing board into aircraft cockpits and flight control systems.
The rule also has implications for innovations in electric propulsion systems, vertical takeoff aircraft and cutting-edge avionics – including those that would enable almost any aircraft to fly Performance Based Navigation procedures.
PBN is another area where we have worked closely with the GA community. While many people think of PBN as something that benefits airlines and their passengers, we all know it’s very important to the GA community as well.
It can help you get into airports under low-visibility conditions with a stabilized approach. And it can create precise, dedicated routes for satellite airports, eliminating conflicts with paths into and out of larger nearby airfields.
Just down the street from here, Henderson Executive Airport is a prime case in point.
As you well know, the airspace around Las Vegas is both constrained and congested, with multiple civilian airfields fed by flight corridors that are limited by large blocks of military airspace.
In 2011, in close coordination with NBAA, we published RNAV procedures for Henderson in preparation for that year’s’ NBAA convention. The procedures allow for easier access to Henderson by reducing conflicts with operations at McCarran International Airport.
We are now focusing on North Las Vegas Airport, where our team is developing RNAV arrival and departure procedures that will make that airport more accessible, as well.
And, for major events around Las Vegas – such as this year’s NBAA convention–we have taken steps to reduce the traditional departure delays that occur when everyone wants to leave around the same time.
In partnership with the Clark County Department of Aviation and Fixed Base Operators at McCarran and Henderson, we developed a departure tool that enables GA pilots to get real-time information on scheduled departures at both airports.
By seeing when demand could exceed capacity, pilots can make strategic decisions that greatly reduce departure delays.
We stress-tested this concept during the Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor fight in August, and it proved that it worked. Departure delays were far lower and significantly shorter than they were following previous events that drew in lots of GA aircraft.
Looking back, my seven years with the FAA have been the most rewarding of my long professional life. Not just because we have accomplished so much together, under often challenging circumstances.
It’s because I have had the chance to work with some of the brightest and most committed and passionate people in aviation, both inside and outside the FAA.
Aviation has always been about seizing new opportunities and pushing the envelope just a little farther.
It’s also one of the few industries, if you think about it, where you can see history and the future sitting side-by-side on the same airport ramp.
I’ve seen simple fabric-covered Piper Cubs parked next to the latest all-composite trainers packed with electronics to rival the Space Shuttle.
Or a World War II-era Beechcraft Staggerwing – once the epitome of luxurious business travel – sharing a hangar with a modern jet that can fly so high you can see the curvature of the earth.
When we talk about aviation being the lifeblood of the economy, we’re not talking only about airports and aircraft, fuel trucks and tow-tugs.
We’re talking about people. People like you.
Thank you for your time today, and thank you for your partnership.