Daniel K. Elwell, Oshkosh, WI
July 26, 2018
Remarks As Delivered
Good morning, everyone.
It feels so good to be back at AirVenture.
I don’t care what’s going on in DC. I get here, and it’s where I feel like I need to be.
I remember my first trip here. When I saw all of the planes lined up, covering every square inch of available real estate… it took my breath away.
And it still does, to be honest.
I once was asked in an interview to choose the best airshow. Which is better – Paris or Oshkosh?
To me, of course, it’s an easy answer.
Le Bourget is… champagne. And chalets.
Oshkosh? It’s beer and blue jeans. And airplanes. A hell of a lot of airplanes.
And I know that if Orville and Wilbur were with us today… they’d be right here.
So just out of curiosity – show of hands, please. How many people are here for the first time?
How many people are here for the tenth or more time?
Twenty or more?
So, this is my fifth AirVenture, and the first as Acting Administrator of the FAA.
But it doesn’t get any better than this, does it? No. And there’s no place any of us would rather be.
And they tell me that this is my opportunity to talk about what the FAA is doing for the general aviation community.
And from the conversations I’ve been having with many of you in the past few days, there’s a lot to talk about.
So, for the next 90 minutes or so… Nah. I thought I’d get a good reaction from that.
But I do want to talk about some of the things we’ve been doing.
We’ve changed our Airmen Certification Standards, so that tests focus less on memorization, and more on critical thinking and risk management.
We’ve streamlined our medical clearance process so that most pilots can receive an exam from their own doctor.
About 36,000 have already saved time and money by skipping a trip to the AME, and meeting the requirements for BasicMed.
Then there’s our new small airplane certification standards, which went into effect last year. And what we’re finding is that they’re freeing up manufacturers to dream big.
We’ve already gotten proposals under Part 23 that combine elements of rotorcraft and fixed-wing vehicles into one, electric-powered aircraft. It’s exciting stuff.
Advancements like these aren’t going to be limited to new builds. We’ve also improved our policies to make it easier and more affordable to install safety-enhancing equipment in the existing fleet.
But here’s the rub.
The FAA can do all sorts of things behind the scenes to help manufacturers get safety equipment off the drawing board and into your favorite supply store more quickly.
It doesn’t do us any good if they don’t end up on your aircraft.
And that, of course, brings me to the subject of ADS-B.
Now, I know you’ve been hearing guys like me come here and tell you about this mandate for years.
But it’s not going away. January 1, 2020 is getting closer and closer.
524 days. That’s what we’re looking at.
You know, it’s not a lot of time when you factor in researching the equipment, buying it, and finding a repair station that’s got time on the schedule to install it.
Now some of you in the room may be thinking – hey, I’m not flying in ruled airspace. I’m not flying in controlled airspace. I don’t need to get ADS-B.
But if there’s even the slightest possibility that you’re gonna need to go into controlled airspace after 2020? You should get ADS-B.
And what I’ve been finding out, in these conversations with you folks, is that those of you who have ADS-B already… And I just talked to a guy yesterday who’s got ADS-B In and Out in his RV-6.
He said it’s an incredible enhancement to his situational awareness. No matter where he flies.
So the FAA wants to make this as easy for you as possible.
We offered an equipage incentive last year. About 10,000 of you took advantage of it. And we’re actively looking for additional ways that we can make this an easier task.
Manufacturers have also stepped up. ADS-B transponder prices have fallen dramatically in the last few years. So if you haven’t looked into equipment costs recently, now’s the time. You should do it.
And there are plenty of vendors here at Oshkosh that would be more than happy to help you figure out a set-up that’s right for you and your aircraft.
ADS-B is going to make the National Airspace System safer. I am confident of that.
Now, speaking of safety…
Thanks to technological advancements, accessible training and trouble-shooting resources, and pilots’ individual commitments to professionalism in the cockpit… the GA fatality rate has fallen almost 23 percent over the last five years.
Look around you. That’s 95 lives that were saved last year, versus where we were in 2012.
This is great news. But if there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s this: We cannot get complacent on safety.
We always have to be on the lookout for new ways to do more, and to be better.
Now we had a couple of unfortunate events this past week.
We lost a pilot in Sheboygan who was participating in a formation exercise for Oshkosh in a Venom fighter jet.
And the C-47 known to all of us as Bluebonnet Belle crashed in Texas – total loss – on its way here.
Thankfully, all fourteen people aboard that warbird survived.
Now, incidents like these are rare. But they remind us that, even as we gather here to celebrate, we can’t take safety for granted – not for a second.
We need to remain vigilant in our personal safety checklists before we fly.
We also need to address emerging issues in the system – as a community.
The FAA is going to be hosting a safety summit next month on wrong surface events, which our Air Traffic Organization has identified as a top-five hazard to our airspace.
These incidents occur, as you know, when an aircraft takes off from or lands at an incorrect taxiway, runway, or airport.
The risk is particularly high for the GA community, where we’ve seen a much higher rate of incidents happening.
We’re going to be bringing together a wide variety of stakeholders to discuss how we continue to address this important issue.
And we need all of you to be part of the conversation.
So… that’s the business side of the talk. Appreciate you listening.
I know a lot of this can sound like inside baseball stuff. But all of you are a savvy group.
You get it – about how the work we’re doing together makes a difference in how you operate within our airspace.
Which is why I didn’t come here just to tell you about the latest and greatest from the FAA.
I’ve got something bigger on my mind.
Walking around here at AirVenture, it seems impossible that America’s general aviation community could be struggling.
There’s so much respect for our history. So much excitement for the future.
But the numbers don’t lie.
In the last ten years, the number of private pilots holding active airmen certificates has decreased by 27 percent.
This is a big drop. And I hate to say it – but the rest of us aren’t exactly getting any younger. Me included.
The average age of a private pilot certificate holder has gone up every year for the last twenty years. It’s now pushing 50.
Look… GA is the heart of America’s aviation system. It’s one of the things that sets us apart from the rest of the world.
We have to protect the legacy we inherited from the pioneers that came before us. And we need to make it even stronger, so we can pass it on to the next generation.
And by “we,” I mean all of us. This is not something the FAA is going to do on its own.
How do we reach the people who aren’t already in our community? How do we ignite their passion for aviation?
I’m a firm believer that the idea of flight intrigues everybody. I mean, at our core. As human beings.
When I was a really little kid, I remember having a recurring dream… that in my dream, I had figured out how to fly, by myself.
I don’t know if anybody else has had those dreams, but I used to have those dreams.
But they were just dreams. I’d wake up in the morning, I’d be all disappointed that I couldn’t actually fly.
Until I went into fifth grade. And Mr. Tyler, my teacher – I found out he was a private pilot. And I thought… well, that’s pretty cool.
And then he said to the class – anybody who wants to go up on a flight with me in my airplane, let me know. Every single one of you who wants to go up, I’ll take you up on the weekend. On his own time, his own dime.
Of course I raised my hand. Went out on his 150, out in Long Island, New York.
And as vivid as you all sitting here today, I can remember sitting up with him in the right seat, taking off… And for the first time in my life, watching trees get smaller, and houses get smaller. And he knew exactly where I lived, and he flew over my house and my neighborhood at 3,000 feet.
And that was it. I was toast. I was done. I’m gonna be a pilot for the rest of my life.
So I know every person in this room has a story just like that. Probably better. About the people who introduced us to this world we love so much.
So now, it’s our turn to be those people – for the next generation, for the young kids.
The universal fascination with flight? It’s still out there.
We’ve got teenagers playing video games that let them build their own airplanes and fly simulated missions.
But they may not see how that connects them to a real-life cockpit.
We’ve got a whole generation of kids that are growing up with drones under the Christmas tree.
They’re already pilots. They just don’t think of themselves that way.
It’s our job to connect the dots. And to clear up some of the misperceptions about who we are and what we do.
Cause when you ask laypeople to describe a “private pilot,” a lot of them picture a millionaire shuttling himself between vacation homes.
Now, don’t get me wrong – we’ve got a few of those. Maybe not a whole of them here.
But we’ve also got people who dropped everything last year to hop in their personal planes and help out with hurricane relief efforts.
Who devote their time and resources to restoring old warbirds to their former glory so future generations can enjoy them.
Pilots who fly sick kids to receive medical treatment they couldn’t afford to get to otherwise.
And we’ve got all of you. Some of you who do those very things. And you come to Oshkosh, every year. Park your planes out on the grass. Sleep under a tarp slung over the wing.
Just to be here. To be a part of this.
We truly are a community. And there’s no better way to start growing our ranks than by harnessing this energy we feel here every year and using it to inspire the next generation of aviators.
I’m heading to KidVenture later today. And you better believe I’m telling those young people about all the possibilities that aviation has to offer.
And I hope you’ll do the same. I know many of you already do.
A lot of you are familiar with EAA’s terrific Young Eagles program.
But did you know that it’s already given more than 2.1 million kids their first ride – for free – in an airplane? Just like Mr. Tyler did for me.
More than 40,000 people around the world already volunteer with them – and they’re always looking for more. Can never have too many.
So please – if you’re not already involved, please consider it. Or think about other ways you can give back to the aviation community that’s already given us so much.
Do it for the family members and mentors who once held the door open for you.
I could never thank Mr. Tyler enough for what he did for me. This… gift he gave me. Where I am today. Because he took me up for 30 minutes in a Cessna 150, about a hundred years ago.
But what I can do is pay it forward.
And it’s my greatest hope that you all feel the same way, and will do the same thing.