Opening Remarks–European Civil Aviation Conference

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

Thank you, Rick (Yoneoka) for that introduction, and thank you to Ingrid (Cherfils) for your dedication and support to this organization, to the US Department of Transportation and the FAA, and most importantly—to global aviation safety—in your more than six years as the president of this influential group.

We appreciate your dedication to this trans-Atlantic partnership that benefits our nations and the world. When we collaborate, we improve the safety, security, and the environment of our interconnected global aviation system.

I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating—despite the extreme challenges of the ongoing crisis and the unpredictability of the recovery, the trans-Atlantic relationship in aviation remains strong, and it is vitally important to the FAA.

Major hurdles remain, but we have also made some positive strides since the beginning of the pandemic. The FAA’s Dr. Susan Northrup will provide more information later today on some of the measures we’ve taken.

It’s good to come together at this consequential time as we strive to get our people and commerce moving again. I know there’s hard work ahead, but I also know that we are the most innovative when we are challenged. History is our proof.

Consider that not too many years ago, it took about four days to travel from France to New York. In fact, on this day in 1935, the ocean liner, S.S. Normandie set a speed record for the trip: Four days, three hours, and 14 minutes.

Now we do the trip by airliner in about eight hours, flying in modern aircraft that are immensely safe and efficient. We can thank innovators on both sides of the Atlantic for that progress.

But if there’s one thing that COVID-19 has shown us, it’s that innovation and technology alone will not make for successful international air travel. It takes rock-solid partnerships on both sides of the Atlantic. And the relationships are even more critical when we must put measures in place to keep our citizens safe. 

The pandemic, however, is not the only challenge we are facing, and we cannot let it keep us from making progress on other important issues like climate change and the environment.

As you know, the Biden-Harris Administration has made a commitment to tackle climate change, and for our part, we intend to accelerate our actions to reduce aviation emissions. We simply can’t move forward with an effective global aviation network without addressing these issues.

To do this, we will build on a strong foundation of aircraft technology, sustainable aviation fuels, air traffic efficiency, and policy. Kevin Welsh will dive into more depth on this tomorrow. 

I’d like to thank our European partners and the European Union for the constant coordination you have provided on all these matters, including the ICAO CART work, and during the reintroduction of the Boeing 737 MAX into airline service in Europe. Along these lines, the FAA and the European Commission will co-host a webinar at the end of June to discuss our joint work and initiatives on aviation safety, climate, and sustainability.

Your cooperation was key while working on the MAX, and I’d have to say it has improved the transparency and sharing of knowledge between us. This is particularly important as we harmonize certification policies and processes.

The collaboration on the MAX gave us a big head start on legislation passed by the U.S. Congress in late December. That statute directed us to continue and improve our relationships with all foreign partners and ICAO, with a particular focus on broader use of Safety Management Systems and better understanding human factors from a global perspective.

Regarding Safety Management Systems, we have initiated a rulemaking that will consider requiring aircraft manufacturers that hold both a type certificate and a production certificate to adopt safety management systems, consistent with international standards and practices.

I’ll add that, overall, our relationship with EASA continues to be positive, and we’re collaborating on certification reform through the bilateral Certification Oversight Board.

I also appreciate that we are on the same page when it comes to the shocking actions that Belarus recently took with regard to a civilian airliner in its airspace.

I know this matter will be discussed more in-depth during your meetings, but I wanted to address it here, and note that by standing together, we can tackle challenges that directly violate safe and regular international aviation operations. 

We support U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg in his calls for international, transparent, and credible investigations of this incident, so we can determine what exactly occurred and how to avoid similar situations in the future.  We have already addressed safety by issuing a Notice to Airmen for flights over the region.

I spoke earlier of how far we’ve come since the S.S. Normandie arrived in New York on this day in 1935, but what about the next 86 years?

From what I’ve seen since becoming FAA Administrator a little less than two years ago, I very strongly believe that we have begun the most exciting period of aerospace progress since the birth of aviation.

Along with entirely new forms of transportation—drones and urban air mobility—we’ve seen a rebirth in space, with an enthusiasm that I haven’t witnessed since the Apollo days.

Related to drones, we recently finalized two new rules—operations over people, which also allows for routine night flights; and remote identification, which takes us ever closer to full integration of drones into our air traffic system. Jay Merkle will address this more in-depth later today.

In commercial aviation, we’re reaching new heights in fuel efficiency, automation, and safety, and taking what we’re learning to rediscover some old ideas… 

Remember that brief interlude, from 1976 until 2003, when a sleek airliner called the Concorde made the Paris-New York hop in a cool three hours…usually with some really cool people on board?

For all of its popularity and glamour, that particular Mach 2 airliner did not turn out to be economically—or environmentally—sustainable in the long run.

But now we are seeing renewed interest in supersonic transport from the perspective of new solutions to the old economic and environmental challenges.

The FAA recently finalized a new rule that clarifies and updates procedures for obtaining approval for supersonic flight testing in the U.S., and we will work closely with our international partners as we consider further standards to make sure we properly address noise and emissions.

And I’d have to wager that 86 years from now, travelers will be able to book a sub-orbital liner that will loft them from New York to Paris in about 30 minutes.

Given the advances and pace we’re seeing in commercial space, it could happen a lot sooner. In the U.S., we’re on track for an average of one launch or reentry every week this year.

Just last month, we marked a first for U.S.-European collaboration in commercial space. The FAA worked with NASA to launch four astronauts—one from the European Union, one from Japan, and two from the U.S.—to the International Space Station aboard a Space X Falcon rocket as part of the Crew-2 mission.

This was the first U.S. commercial space mission to fly an astronaut from the European Space Agency. Along with three others already on the ISS, the crew is conducting biological research that could help all people by solving some of the complex questions about the human immune system.

The FAA’s role was to ensure the commercial space operator, SpaceX, met all federal licensing requirements as well as regulations to protect public safety during the launch—and they did.

To date, we have an excellent record with our commercial space licensing. In fact, the launch of Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity test flight on May 22 marked an awesome milestone for us: 400 FAA-licensed commercial launches, none of which caused an injury to the public.

That doesn’t mean we’re resting on our laurels—it’s quite the opposite. It means we’re working even harder to uncover any threats that could lead to a problem.

Progress in space, as well as the many new technologies we’re putting to work closer to the earth—like drones and UAM—make me optimistic about our destiny in the transportation realm. And I know this—because of our trans-Atlantic partnership, it will be a shared destiny.

With that, I’ll let you get to the important business on the agenda today. I thank you again for being our trusted partner through good times and bad, and for having me here today.

Before I go, I would also like to thank Ian Ross, our FAA Senior Representative in Paris, for his dedicated service to the trans-Atlantic partnership over the past five and a half years. As most of you probably know, Ian will be returning to the U.S. this summer. But he will be bringing back with him the experience, network, and appreciation for the importance of our collaboration with all of you.

Thanks again, and I’d be happy to take any questions.