Dubai Air Show

Administrator Stephen M Dickson (August 12, 2019 - present)

Hello Dubai. 

Two years ago, when I attended my first Dubai Air Show, traffic at your international airport was a sign of the times. Great times. 

With 90 million passengers annually, Dubai International was one of the busiest airports in the world, with traffic levels similar to my hometown airport, Hartsfield-Atlanta. 

We all know what happened shortly after that show. While the aftershocks of the COVID-19 global pandemic are still with us today, I’m proud to say the aviation and aerospace industry did not fade away. 

Our global community rose up and locked virtual arms to make sure this vital transportation system could keep people and cargo moving. And we succeeded.

Through the ICAO Council’s Aviation Recovery Task Force, the global aviation community made it as safe as possible for passengers and employees. We worked tactically to keep aviation moving, and strategically to plot a path forward for a coordinated recovery from the pandemic. 

And today, we hail the dawn of a new day. The rain has come and we see the fruits of the trees. 

Yes, COVID is still a concern, but we are stronger and more resilient and better equipped to embrace our new opportunities—drones, urban air mobility, space and scores of other new technologies waiting in the wings. 

Right now we are in prime shape to tackle two of the most pressing challenges in front of us—continuing to deliver on the incredible high safety record we have achieved, and reducing our carbon footprint. 

I always say safety is a journey, not a destination. And I believe that strongly. Part of that journey is to keep in constant contact with our international neighbors so that we can share best practices and lessons learned.  

Sharing our experiences is particularly important as both of us integrate exciting new forms of transportation into our national airspace systems.

Just as rain is the foundation for producing fruit, safety is the basis for reaping the benefits of innovation. We, as regulators, must be careful to balance the benefits of innovation with any new risks it introduces. That’s why we are very proactive in sharing our experiences with commercial space, drones and advanced air mobility. 

Two years ago here in Dubai, I had the pleasure of meeting with your space agency, where we discussed ways to work together on spaceports and international policy. At the time, Dubai had just welcomed back the first Emirati astronaut to have flown on the International Space Station.

Since then, the space industry has been moving at warp speed, and it has been moving safely. In the U.S. the tempo of our commercial space launches and reentries continues to increase—right now we’re averaging about one event per week—and the types of missions continue to amaze. 

Very recently we saw four human spaceflight missions by Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin and SpaceX, that among them included three suborbital trips, one multi-day orbital flight, and the youngest and eldest people to go into space, including William Shatner, Captain Kirk himself. 

Closer to Earth, we are increasingly working together on the safe integration of drones and flying taxis.

In February of this year, the FAA hosted a regional drone Remote Identification and Operations Over People Final Rules webinar, where 19 participants from Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE attended. 

And in July, we hosted a regional webinar on Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability, which enables drones to safely fly in airspace that is heavily used by traditional aircraft. During it, we welcomed 15 participants from the Civil Aviation Authorities of Israel, UAE and Jordan. 

I’ll add that last month, I traveled to a business aviation conference in Las Vegas and met with many flying taxi startups—and I will tell you that they’re very serious and they are very eager to begin revenue service—just as they are here in Dubai. Given the certification work underway, I think flying taxis could be ready for operations in the U.S. around the 2024 timeframe. 

That’s only a couple of years from now, the blink of an eye in terms of aerospace development timelines. 

Regarding our biggest environmental challenge—minimizing our carbon footprint—let me say that we at the FAA are committed to reducing the sector’s greenhouse gas emissions with the goal of net-zero emissions for our economy by 2050.

We are eager to work with all of our international partners to do the same. 

While there are many technical solutions on horizon, sustainable aviation fuels will be a big part of the solution, at least in the near term. With adequate scaling up, we believe sustainable aviation fuels can address greenhouse gas emissions in a cost-effective manner. 

The Biden Administration set a new goal to scale up the U.S. production of sustainable aviation fuel to 3 billion gallons per year by 2030, enough to meet 10% of our aviation demand. That’s a leap. Right now, we’re producing less than five million gallons a year, but we’re motivated more than ever to meet these goals. 

On the technology front, the FAA continues to partner with companies to develop and demonstrate technologies that reduce emissions and noise for aircraft, as well as for vehicles and equipment at airports. And we continue to deploy green technologies in our air traffic control operations, including a new software capability that will help participating airlines burn less fuel and take less time to get from the departure gate to the runway.  

As I said, the challenges are many, but the opportunities are tremendous. I believe we are in the midst of the most exciting period in the aerospace industry history since the dawn of the jet and space age, and this is our time to thoughtfully embrace innovation and harvest an amazing transportation future for the entire planet.

Working together, we can do it. 

I want you to know that the FAA is here, as a partner, to help in any way we can to build that future. 

Thanks for listening. Have a great Dubai Air Show.