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Speech – "NBAA Remarks"

"NBAA Remarks"
Daniel K. Elwell, Orlando, FL
October 9, 2018

NBAA Remarks


Good morning, and thanks, Ed.  I know you’re interested in technology, so here’s a nugget for you.  Google has an alert feature that’s pretty handy.  You enter a word, and every time that words pops up in the news, you get an email.

If you enter “FAA,” you get updates about the Federal Aviation Administration.  And the Federal Arbitration Act.  The Fine Arts Association.  The Angolan Armed Forces.  You can imagine what those news clips look like.  

And not to be shortchanged, the Florida Aquaculture Association.  

I must warn you, if you’re going to try this, get ready for updates on the National Bass Anglers Association.  

Worthless trivia aside, in this room, there’s little doubt about what FAA and business aviation stand for. We stand for safety.  We’ve stood for safety from day one.  

The good news here is that you can be counted on to step up at each and every turn.  

With the help of the NBAA and the other General Aviation Joint Steering Committee members, the FAA has really started to broaden the scope of our data collection system.  

We’ve always needed GA information in the Aviation Safety Information Analysis and Sharing program – ASIAS – and now thanks to you—we’re getting the valuable safety data we need.  

When we began building GA operations into ASIAS, there were just two business operators. They stepped forward to be the first to bring their data into the program.

Today, we have 82 corporate and business operators who actively participate in ASIAS. There are upwards of 1,600 jet and several hundred piston aircraft generating data in use today by the GA membership in ASIAS.

That’s a look behind the curtain that for a long time, we weren’t very optimistic about getting. But that was then, this is now. Business aviation has stepped up, and you’ve made it possible for us to raise the safety bar. Again.  

You’ve been active in our efforts to modernize as well. We appreciate your involvement on the NextGen advisory committee. You’ve helped make next generation plans become a reality for this generation.  

You’ve been a lead advocate for the modernization of the NAS, allowing us to lay a forward-looking foundation.  The business aviation community is pursuing the same goals we are—access, efficiency and flexibility and, of course, safety.  

But it’s just as important to note that for modernization to be a success, we need airspace users to be invested in aircraft avionics for communication, navigation and surveillance.  

All of our avionics decisions were made after careful consultation with the aviation industry.  

With the help of the NextGen Advisory Committee, we’re trying to tackle the Northeast Corridor…because, quite frankly, it’s been tackling us for far too long.  

We know that there’s no new runway on anyone’s horizon. We’ve capitalized on the natural progression of air traffic control. From procedural separation in the 50s … based on knowing where we thought the aircraft was.  

To surveillance control—where we know where the aircraft is. And for about the last 10 years, we’ve been focused on time-based…or trajectory based traffic management. Air traffic control based on where we know the aircraft will be.  

This is where air traffic control needs to be.  

You know, I was at FAA back when we signed the original ADS-B contract with ITT, and when we first started drafting the ADS-B Out NPRM.  

Since then, we’ve heard two narratives: 1. NextGen’s great, FAA has been delivering billions of dollars in benefits. And then there’s the other: NextGen is over-budget, delayed—of no benefit at all.  

I think the reality is somewhere in the middle. One thing is for sure: Despite considerable obstacles, that I’ll talk about in a few minutes, FAA has done a great job, and business aviation has always embraced advances. You’re early adopters. Always have been.  

There’s this notion that modernization has a start and a stop, as if innovators say, “well, that’s enough for now. Let’s take a break.”

The FAA has never looked at it that way; industry certainly doesn’t. We continue to build, to streamline, to modify, to advance.

Modernization is more a journey than a destination.

But, if we’ve learned anything from our efforts the past few decades it’s that government doesn’t have all the answers.  

We’re putting the specs out there with the expectation that industry will come up with solutions. We were never meant to be the only innovator. Our role as the regulator is safety.  

My vision is that we give the innovator as free a reign as possible.  We set the conditions for a safe and efficient NAS.  How you get there is up to you. That’s the definition of a performance-based regulatory culture. We set the safety bar high – very high. And you continue to go over it.

Business aviation has always been very helpful when it comes to supporting modernization – especially as adopters of new technology. So, we need you to keep moving forward with us.  

When the bill was signed, I think just about everybody breathed a sigh of relief. The first 5-year FAA bill since 1982. On that afternoon, we said that the Reauthorization delivers a safer, more secure and efficient aviation system to the traveling public… that it fuels economic growth and competitiveness. And it does.

This leads directly to a discussion of the FAA Reauthorization bill the President signed a few weeks ago.  

The bill creates a stronger infrastructure and does a lot to maintain American leadership in aviation. It’s a bi-partisan bill, and aviation…heck, everyone… needs a little bipartisan thinking.  

We’ve already started working on the key provisions.

Of course, while the bill gives us the authority to exist the next five years, it doesn’t give us the money to keep the lights on. So, while we get a respite from living under one short-term extension after another, we’re not out of the woods on funding.  

In the last 11 years, the FAA has had to operate under 45 mini-appropriations cycles, some lasting only a few days;  28 Authorization cycles; Sequestration; Two government shutdowns; And a partridge in a pear tree.

Look…each of you has a budget. Each of you makes sure that you’re looking as far down the road as possible.

I can’t do that. I’m in a rob-Peter-to-pay-Paul scenario, a never-ending loop in which the vagaries of the political winds hamstring our chances of planning with certainty—real, actual certainty, of what we plan to do in the long term.  

If I asked you to buy into a business that ran on a continuing resolution, you’d walk away.

Being for innovation and against a stable funding stream is like being pro-light bulb and anti-electricity.  

We’re trying to run a $16 billion operation with 45,000 employees—with a budget system that’s just like living check to check. This scenario will not go away. It will not resolve itself.  

When your budget is a political football, it just gets way too easy to punt. And that’s just what’s been happening for years.  

We’ve shown that we can transform the NAS – albeit with one hand tied behind our backs. Now it’s time to do the same with funding. Ed, we need your help on this. The one certainty here is that what we’re doing now just doesn’t cut it.

My sense of urgency is fueled by three words: commercial, space and drones.

America witnessed its first passenger on a commercial spacecraft. These aren’t barnstormers. They’re new entrants.  They’re investors, and they are here, in no uncertain terms, to stay.  

They have no plans to make money on a zero-g carnival ride.  They’re looking long-term, and space, for them, anyway, isn’t so much the final frontier as it is a helluva place to set up shop.  

There’s a raised eyebrow about commercial space, and I’d like to disabuse you of that notion.  It’s unsafe.  It’s too risky.  We need more regulations.  What about people and property on the ground?  It’s too expensive.  Passengers would be putting their lives into someone else’s hands.

For the record, that’s what people used to say about us.  But aviation evolved, and so will commercial space.  We would be foolish to dismiss this as novelty.

We’re learning the same lesson with unmanned aircraft.  What started as a toy is now an economic juggernaut.  This thing went from aisle 4 at Toys R Us to a pretty pricey business strategy—but who am I to speak for Amazon, Google, Uber and Walmart?  

We must find a path for these new entrants to be safely integrated into the NAS.  The FAA will not create a segregated traffic management system.  That’s not going to work.  

We went from balloons to pistons to jets and rotorcraft.  And we’re going to evolve again to accommodate commercial spacecraft, drones, and whatever’s next.  And believe me when I tell you, I’ve come to realize that what’s next comes around the corner a whole lot faster than it used to.

Personally, I’ve flown: MD-80, B767/757, and Cessna Citation on the civilian side.  On the military side:  C-21 (Lear 35), C-141B, T-37/T-38. Becoming a registered drone pilot is next on my list.  

Like I said, they are here to stay. We’ve got to learn about them just as much as we want them to learn about us.  

Before I close, I’d like to leave you with a thought about the future. We’ve discussed future workforce, future aircraft and future funding.

But I think each of these takes a backseat to the future of safety. The future of safety lies in analyzing data submitted through voluntary safety programs.  

To those operators who participate in ASIAS today, thank you. You’re laying the groundwork for the safety of the next generation. I encourage you to share your experiences with operators who are a little gun-shy. The more data we have to learn about the system the better we can manage and improve the system.  

Sharing safety issues, trends and lessons learned is critical to learning what may be emerging to become the next risk in the system. We won’t be able to identify these without you and without all of us working together.  

When it comes to safety, the corporate community is a leader and I admire what you have accomplished and the high bar you have set. I want to see that across our entire community and our new entrants.  And I’d like to see you step up wherever possible to make that point for me.

We’ve covered a lot of ground, but as Ed and I have said on many occasions, we’ve got to move forward together.  Our system is dynamic and constantly evolving. I firmly believe that collaboration is the only way forward.  

Through cooperation, through voluntary data sharing, we’ll be able to uncover risks. We’ll be able to mitigate them before they become a catastrophe.  

The good news for all of us is that I know that we can count on NBAA to step up for safety. That’s what you’re known for.

Thank you.

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