Thank you Laurence (Wildgoose), and welcome, everyone, to the FAA’s 8th annual global leadership meeting. We come together to celebrate our accomplishments over the past year and to discuss the state of aviation and chart our course forward.
We meet at a consequential time—technology and innovation are thriving; we have a renewed focus on infrastructure, environmental sustainability, and equal opportunity from a new Administration, and in the midst of it all, we have the enduring challenges of COVID-19.
The right global presence is essential for success, and we have the right global stuff. In fact, our international expertise and reach is never appreciated more than when there’s a crisis or multiple crises, and lately, we’ve had plenty of opportunities to pitch in and help.
Here are just a few examples.
When the State Department called last month, the FAA was ready to support the safe and efficient evacuation of U.S. citizens and evacuees from Afghanistan. We also protected U.S. civil operators from dangerous airspace through a restrictive airspace NOTAM. And, we helped U.S. carriers, as needed, when the Civil Air Reserve Fleet was activated and called to duty.
When the Haiti Civil Aviation Authority reached out after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck the country on August 14, the FAA jumped in immediately to support response. Among other measures, we supported a Haiti Flight Operations Coordination Center and a slot management procedure to ensure an orderly flow of humanitarian mission aircraft to and from Port-au-Prince. The FAA support allowed the Haitian government to focus on what was most important—disaster relief efforts for their citizens.
It might seem like ancient history, but let’s not forget how the FAA’s international team stepped up to help the State Department safely bring home nearly 130,000 Americans in early 2020, when COVID-19 became a global pandemic. The International Office also worked with FEMA and other civil aviation authorities to bring medical supplies and personal protective equipment home for our protection. They also played a key role as part of the ICAO Council’s Aviation Recovery Task force to help keep the industry flying while protecting aviation workers and passengers.
Last September, when I spoke to you, I predicted that 2021 could be one of our most successful years, with COVID-19 in our rear-view mirror. Like many others, I was a bit too optimistic. Today, U.S. domestic airline passenger volumes are still down 18% from pre-pandemic levels, and international volume is down 40%. Business travel remains depressed as well.
But we’re in a much better place than we were at this time last year, when domestic volume was down 60%, and international was down almost 90%. And we have highly effective vaccines available.
Will we get to pre-pandemic levels next year? Airlines for America thinks so. The trade group is predicting revenues will return to 2019 levels by the second half of 2022, although transitioning away from travel restrictions like 212Fs will be critical to that recovery.
The FAA is working with CDC, DHS, and State Department to consider options for safe and sustainable expansion of international travel, when the situation allows.
We are also supporting the President’s Expert Travel Working Groups, where we are all working together with key foreign government partners to determine that runway to greater recovery.
Responding to crises like pandemics and earthquakes is a very visible global presence for the FAA. Yet we have many other international day-to-day roles that are not as visible, but are just as important to our mission of providing the safest and most efficient aerospace system in the world...
We mentor civil aviation authorities, airports, industry, and air navigation service providers to effect change globally, even in areas we don’t directly regulate or operate.
We set global standards for aviation safety. That’s critical because passengers and the public have come to expect a very high level of safety from the commercial airline industry, and they expect the same in all forms of air transportation wherever they are.
We share our experiences in new vehicles and technologies—like drones, Advanced Air Mobility, automation, and commercial space—to help everyone become safer and interoperable.
We also keep our eyes on the horizon to see what’s coming in the future. I’m now a little more than two years into this job, and I have a clear vision for that future and how we can best serve the U.S. and the global community.
Along with making progress in safety, operational excellence, and empowering our people, that vision includes strengthening our partnerships around the world so that we can continue being the gold standard for aviation safety.
And what I said here last year bears repeating: American leadership is critical now, as other nations advance their aviation systems and other aviation authorities and air navigation service providers offer their capabilities and approaches.
If we continue providing leadership through transparency, humility, and communicating our ideas—and successes—in all areas of aviation, then other nations will continue to follow our lead.
I have the utmost confidence that you, the members of our international team, can make this happen, and I look forward to our continued work together.
Thank you for listening and have a great leadership meeting.