AirVenture 2019 Meet the Administrator

Former Acting Administrator, Daniel K. Elwell (February 2018–August 09, 2019)

Remarks as Delivered

Thank you for that introduction Jack.

This is my sixth AirVenture and my second time here as Acting Administrator.

What a privilege—to be on stage at the Theater in the Woods, in the great State of Wisconsin, at what’s become the greatest airshow in the World, bar none.


For me, AirVenture is the perfect marriage of innovation and passion — a pure love of things that fly. AirVenture is also the perfect marriage of old and new; past, present and future.

We aviators are able to embrace the next new thing without losing our reverence for what got us here.

Like you, I get goosebumps when those big radial engines and Merlins resonate and rumble into the sky.

I’m left speechless by the aluminum overcast of the airshow every afternoon,

And I never tire walking among the 10,000 flying machines of all shapes and sizes that decorate the airport turf, each one reflecting the unique character and qualities of its owner, often waiting nearby to proudly share his or her story.

I too have a story to tell—non-fiction of course. It’s a story about the FAA’s work for the GA community and three outstanding members of that community, the winners of this year’s General Aviation Awards.

They’ll join me later on stage. The awards are presented by the General Aviation Awards program, a cooperation between the FAA and industry.

My story starts with a very exciting development for GA.

As you know, several years ago we overhauled the old prescriptive Part 23 aircraft design rules with performance-based rules and we also offered new policies like NORSEE (which stands for non-required safety enhancing equipment) so that owners of legacy Part 23 aircraft could more easily acquire and install safety equipment like AOA sensors.

But Part 23 Reform and NORSEE are just warmups for MOSAIC–the Modernization of Special Airworthiness Certification program -that we’re working on.

This is a big one. We’ve been talking about it for several years, but when Congress last year asked us to change the rules so that drone builders could use light sport-type consensus standards, we saw a great opportunity to kick it into high gear.

Here are just a few of the benefits for seven aircraft categories we’re looking to modernize:

For light sport aircraft, we’ll be able to do things like safely bump up the maximum weight so that instructors can now have some margin when flying with guys like me who like brats and beer a little too much.

They will also be able to have four seats and an electric motor.

For experimentals, if they’re not actually doing experimental work, they’ll likely fit into a more appropriate Special Airworthiness category.

Say goodbye to those lovely big “EXPERIMENTAL” stickers.

For legacy Part 23 aircraft, an owner of a small plane that is not using it for commercial purposes, will be able to exchange the standard airworthiness certificate for a special airworthiness certificate.

That means the owner will be able to install lower-cost safety equipment – the kind that is widely available for the Experimental market – without an STC or 337.

There are tradeoffs of course – like new operating limitations.

As I said, you would not be able to use it for compensation or hire, and you probably wouldn’t be able to take it into Canada. For many owners though, the benefits will far outweigh the limitations.  

It’s not a free pass to do whatever you like—you still have to do quality work.

Take it from a mechanic who’s seen it all. Not me, Dave Monti, the winner of the 2019 National Aviation Technician of the Year.

We asked Dave what we could do better in the maintenance area to improve GA safety. His answer—education for what owner/operators can or can’t do to their certified aircraft.

“We see a lot of owner maintenance that is just poor,” Monti told us. That kind of intel is essential for us as we craft new rules.

Dave is also a pilot. He first soloed in 1962 at the ripe old age of 16 – in an Aeronca Champ AND a Beech Bonanza—and he’s been flying ever since.

Along the way he started a maintenance business. 40 years and 8,000 flight hours later, he’s at the same maintenance company.

I can’t say exactly when the MOSAIC proposal will come out, but it will be worth the wait. And it’s not just me saying it. Jack will tell you MOSAIC is a huge priority for EAA.

It’s definitely a high priority for the FAA too, but it’s not our number one. That’s safety. Always has been. Always will be.

Safety is the second part of my story.

You all know that some of the very same traits that make for great pilots – being goal-oriented and mission-minded – are behind many of the accidents we’ve seen for all too long in GA.

Wanting to complete the mission can result in tunnel vision and risky decisions.

To be sure, our collective focus on the issue has resulted in a reduction in the fatal accident rate by approximately 20% from 2009 to 2018.

But here’s the bad news–Our preliminary data for 2018 shows that the GA fatal accident rate will be slightly higher than it was in 2017.

We’re still well below our overall fatal accident rate reduction target of 1% year-over-year, but I think we can all agree 2018 is not the direction we want to be heading.

For my part, I will be convening a government-industry GA Safety Roundtable this Fall in Washington.

We’ll bring to the table our perspectives on the causes of the increase in GA fatalities, and we’ll look for ways to effectively address those causes.

Interventions will be targeted, and based on data. And we’ll work with you and with industry to voluntarily make the changes that need to be made – basically the same approach the airlines have taken.

We really need the general aviation community—the people in this room—to step up with your can-do attitude and work with us and industry to figure this out and turn it around.

We’ve already got an infrastructure in place—we formed the GA Joint Steering Committee, or GAJSC, precisely for this reason – to combat fatal accidents.

The committee – made up of the GA community, industry and the FAA – analyzes data and develops consensus-based training, procedural and technological approaches to target problem areas, the worst of which has been—and remains—loss of control.

We also provide, through the FAA Safety Team, continuous training opportunities and a Wings program designed to get pilots to learn and stay proficient by fine tuning their flying skills.

We have one of the FAA Safety team’s finest here today, Karen Kalishek (Callis–Shek). She’s our 2019 FAA Safety Team Representative of the Year award winner.

Karen’s a full-time flight instructor whose passion is emergency preparedness as a way to prevent accidents.

She says that on her flight reviews, she’ll do something unexpected with the goal of eliciting the proverbial “deer in the headlights” look from her clients as they become startled.

It’s no secret that many pilots will avoid an instructor like Karen when they venture out for their preferably boring biennial check.

But what Karen is offering is precisely what happens in the real world – something unexpected that will cause the unprepared pilot to freeze up and possibly make a bad decision.

Another safety resource that Karen is passionate about is the FAA Wings Program. On the web at FAA Safety dot Gov.

As I said, it’s chock full of relevant training materials and it’s free. Sign up and start taking classes and attending seminars and using it for your flight reviews. You’ll be a safer, more knowledgeable pilot because of it.

And there’s a new sweepstakes where we’ll be giving out at least $10,000 a year in prizes.

You enter the pool of potential prize winners every time you finish a Wings phase, or for instructors, any time you sign-off a Wings phase.

Another firm believer in the Wings program is our CFI of the Year, Gary Reeves. He signed off 5,000 Wings credits last year—that’s an average of 14 a day.

You can attend his free courses here at AirVenture for credits, and in fact there are loads of presentations here that will get you credits.

Unfortunately, at the moment, both Gary and Karen say there are too many pilots who don’t even know the Wings program exists.

That’s something all of us here can help with – let’s get the word out about Wings and other safety initiatives to other pilots you know who are not as engaged.

Here’s another safety effort I want to promote—the FAA is working on a plain language, sensible retooling of the NOTAM system that will work better for you.

I promised you last year that we’d do it, and I’m a man of my word.

We’re going to fix it and we’re going to take your advice as we do it.

Part of the fix will be to either redesign the existing Notam information management system, or start from scratch on a new one, with single technology gateways for entering, processing and retrieving Notam data.

And we can’t forget about the contributions technology is making to improve GA safety.

We have deployed advanced technologies like ADS-B Out and In to boost situational awareness for pilots so they can do a better job with avoiding mid-air, controlled flight into terrain and weather-related accidents.

In the event of an accident, first responders can very quickly get a bead on your location based on ATC-provided ADS-B information.

We have a new study quantifying the safety advantages that pilots get when they equip with ADS-B OUT and ADS-B IN, including moving map displays.

We found that aircraft using the technology in the contiguous US experienced 50 percent fewer mid-air, CFIT and weather-related accidents between 2013 and 2017 as compared to unequipped aircraft.  

That translates into 36 avoided accidents over that time period. 

As equipage increases, we expect the accidents avoided by using ADS-B to increase significantly.

I’ll speak a bit more about ADS-B when Jack and I talk a little later.

So on to the final part of my story – I promise – firing up the next generation of aviation and aerospace professionals.

Demand is high. Here in the U.S., some analysts say we’ll need more than 100,000 new pilots over the next 20 years, but our numbers are shrinking.

Already we have about 30% fewer private pilots and 20% fewer commercial pilots than we had a decade ago.

There are other reasons we need more pilots – they develop skills that can translate to success in business and in life.

Pilots are self-starters and go-getters and goal-oriented people.

We want to get from point A to point B by the most direct and expeditious route above the earth, and typically with the blue side up—well, you acro people might see it differently… But those are admirable traits for any new generation.

Where do new pilots come from? One of our award winners, Dave Monti, took a very traditional route, soloing at age 16 and never stopping.

But Karen and Gary took quite different roads. Gary was a paramedic who then operated a pet ambulance service… yes, I said pet ambulance…

He dabbled with flying as a hobby before selling the fluffy 911 business. He then became a CFI at age 36 and now calls his specialized flight instruction service his dream job.

Karen was a bank executive, graduate school teacher and globetrotting consultant in 35 countries before getting her private pilot’s license…. at age 50.

She says starting to fly later in life helps with being patient with students and all that international experience has paid off in being able to better understand diversity in talents and skills of her students and clients.

Their stories are an inspiration to others. Think about the folks you see at the airport fence with their kids or grandkids, who look longingly at the sky and are probably thinking, “You know I’ve always thought about being a pilot some day….”

Why not reach out and tell them that “some day” can be today…. One of Karen’s students is in his mid-70s.

And it’s not just pilots, mechanics and flight attendants – we need a new workforce for the entire aerospace industry.

One of my highest priorities at the FAA is to bring new, well trained men and women into the aviation system.  

Back in DC, we are working internally to double down on our Science – Technology – Engineering and Math (STEM) outreach efforts, and have established the FAA Aviation Workforce Steering Committee to focus on these efforts at the agency level.

Wherever you stand on this, one thing is for sure: Unless and until each one of us takes an active and personal stand on getting kids interested in aviation and STEM, the pipeline will run dry.  

Ok…I’ve had my say, and then some. Let’s get our winners up here for their awards.

Please join me in congratulating:

Dave Monti of Gardnerville, Nevada–National Aviation Maintenance Technician of the Year

Karen Kalishek of DePere, Wisconsin–National FAA Safety Team Representative of the Year

And Gary Reeves of Decatur, Texas–National Certified Flight Instructor of the Year.

These folks embody the very best of the aviation community and we at the FAA thank them for everything they do to make General Aviation a better, safer and more vibrant community.

Let’s give them a big round of applause.