2024 FAA-EASA Safety Conference - Washington, DC

Administrator Michael Whitaker (October 2023 - Present)

Thank you, Eric, for that introduction, and thanks to AIA and GAMA for their great work supporting this conference. I'm also pleased to welcome our aviation colleagues from around the world. Great to see everyone here today. Great to see such a great, strong turnout. It has given me strong confidence that there's a lot of good work going on between FAA and EASA. So, it's great to see you all here today.  

I have to say thinking about this event, it strikes me that we just are at a really special moment and we have a huge opportunity. When I say us, I mean FAA and EASA. All of us working together. 

It feels like the right time to do some big things. I've been fortunate enough to be able to spend a little time with Florian yesterday and today. Florian and I had a chance to work together ten years ago when he was at SESAR and I was deputy. I think that's a very fortunate turn of events. It's been a bit like two old friends getting together and catching up on lots that's happened, since we were here before, but also a lot of enthusiasm about what's possible. I think there's no shortage of things that we can work on, and we're both very aligned on making that happen, so really an exciting time. 

I think I can say that we've agreed it's an exciting time and that this is a very important moment. Since we're in the U.S., I feel I have to quote an American philosopher instead of a French philosopher. I'm going to go with Yogi Bear who famously said, "When you come to a fork in the road, take it." So, we're at a fork in the road, and I think there's a lot of opportunity. We're really excited about that. 

We actually have had a chance to talk about some substance. As I think about where we go, there are three big areas - three buckets, if you will - that we've had some discussions about it and really can guide us going forward.

You won't be surprised to hear that the first bucket is safety. I think I'm five months ahead of Florian in the job, so I've had a little bit of a head start. I told him I was exactly at his point when January 5th happened. So, hopefully, he will have a smoother entry than I did.  

Coming into this role, the focus had been entirely on safety. Looking at significant safety events, looking at pilot mental health, fatigue, controller hiring. As the events of January 5th occurred, it really helped clarify that we were in the right mode, looking at operational safety in the system. I won’t dwell on all of the developments that have happened since January 5th, but we've been working very intensely with Boeing around developing a comprehensive plan to drive culture change and improve quality at Boeing. I think the lessons from that event, we're seeing echo across the industry.  

I think we've also learned from that event that we have some real opportunities around data - around ensuring we have better data, we have more current data, and better tools to analyze it. We're gonna not waste the events of January 5th and make sure we come out with a safer, more robust system than we did before.  

I think all of these lessons are able to inform the discussions between FAA and EASA on how to move forward on safety. We've taken the learnings from January 5th and also applied them to other areas in the system, whether it's operators, maintainers, controllers, pilots, or with workforce performance, writ large.  

These are all opportunities to work together with EASA. These are not unique US issues, our systems inextricably linked. We buy aircraft from Europe, they buy aircraft from us. Our operators fly to Europe and vice versa. We need to really figure out how we can drive the safety agenda forward.  

The second area that I would mention is on the regulatory front, I think there's a lot of opportunity to improve how we're working together with regulation. To discuss that, I would again point to a great American philosopher this time, Mark Twain, who pointed out “history doesn't repeat itself, but it often rhymes.” I think as we think about our regulatory structure and EASA's regulatory structure, rhyming is a good goal. We can never have exactly the same regulations in place, but they should be as compatible as possible. There are opportunities for us to work together to make sure we can get aligned and around the regulatory structures, particularly with respect to new entrants coming into the market. I think we've seen an example of that today with our circular on advanced air mobility and EASA’s guidance on special conditions for eVTOL aircraft.  

We can also look at the rulemaking process. We have some unusual restrictions around ex parte communications, but we can certainly in the pre-rulemaking stage do more to work together to make sure we can achieve some alignment going forward. 

Then finally, I think the third area that we can look to work together is on international engagement where we can cooperate. That's in, driving the agenda at ICAO or working together to promote safety in third countries, particularly in the developing countries. I think we have fundamental alignment on our objectives and it's time to leverage that alignment going forward.  

So, really excited to be here, excited that you're all here, and looking forward to really taking this relationship to the next level. Thank you.