The Power of the Trans-Atlantic Partnership

Assistant Administrator for Policy, International Affairs and Environment Laurence S Wildgoose (January 1, 2021 - present)

Thank you, Ingrid (Cherfils), for that introduction, and thank you to ECAC for the invitation to speak to your members and observers at the 39th triennial session.

I’ll start with my conclusion: We, the United States, remain fully committed to the trans-Atlantic partnership, and we are confident that a new era of collaboration and growth is upon us. President Biden made this clear on his trip to Europe last month when he reaffirmed the primacy of the U.S.-European alliance and laid out a progressive agenda for tackling challenges and seizing opportunities.

Those messages are reflected in the priorities of U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and FAA Administrator Steve Dickson. In fact, when I was appointed as the assistant administrator for policy, international affairs, and environment at the FAA this past January, I received very clear direction from President Biden and Secretary Buttigieg to take action on their agendas, to make things happen.  

Action means advancing the department’s traditional values of safety, innovation, and infrastructure, while also being laser-focused on the aviation industry’s recovery post COVID-19. Climate change, equity and inclusion, and restoring America’s global standing are a few of the key priorities of the Biden-Harris administration.

The president’s priorities are already reflected in the work we are doing at the FAA and integrated into our day-to-day work in the form of our four strategic pillars—safety, global leadership, operational excellence, and people.

I know that these ideals are also important to our European partners as well, so we look forward to collaborating to ensure our shared success. This is particularly important as we work together to restore the global aviation network post-COVID, and in the longer term, as we strive to increase safety and protect the environment.

It’s not hyperbole to say that when we work together, we improve our interconnected global aviation system, and the world is better for it.

AVIATION RECOVERY / COVID-19

Actions—on both sides of the Atlantic—were foundational in our response to COVID-19 and will be just as important for the recovery of global aviation.

  • We worked together on the International Civil Aviation Organization, or ICAO’s, Council Aviation Recovery Task Force to provide consistent guidance for air carriers to protect workers and air travel passengers from virus exposure and transmission
  • Our air traffic control experts collaborated to prioritize flights carrying vaccines and medical personnel, who were critical to our respective nation’s response and recovery.
  • In the U.S., while ensuring that all safety needs were met, we issued necessary, temporary regulatory relief for the industry, and after vaccines were approved, we responded within hours to provide medical guidance for pilots and air traffic controllers.
  • We kept aviation operating, to keep the flow of people and medicines moving, but also to kick start the global economic recovery, which is essential.

CLIMATE/SUSTAINABILITY

Action is what President Biden is doing regarding climate change. On day one of this administration, the president fulfilled his promise to rejoin the Paris Agreement and set a course for the United States to tackle the climate crisis at home and abroad, which includes a goal of reaching net zero emissions economy-wide by no later than 2050.

Global aviation is a key front in this battle, and the FAA is committed to make aviation greener for the future.

  • We are standing up a third phase of the Continuous Lower Energy Emissions and Noise program to accelerate the maturation of aircraft and engine technologies that improve fuel efficiency while also reducing noise and emissions.
  • We continue to research feed stocks and processes that can be used to develop sustainable aviation fuels and find ways to increase the amount of SAF being used by aviation.
  • And we continue to look at ways to minimize aircraft fuel burn through more efficient air traffic procedures. For example, the FAA is currently focused on implementing Trajectory-Based Operations, which will increase predictability and allow flights to absorb delays caused by merging and sequencing in a more fuel-efficient manner over the full trajectory.

But these efforts will take time to achieve their full potential, and we need to do more to reduce emissions now.

That’s why the United States continues to support the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation, or CORSIA. We believe it is a practical, market-based way to address the CO 2 emissions that we can’t immediately reduce through technology, air traffic operations, or sustainable aviation fuels.

Industry supports CORSIA as well, seeing it as a way to help them meet their commitments to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Of course, we can’t do this alone. Since most of the world’s air transport happens across borders, we need broad global support for climate action in multilateral forums like ICAO, and through direct, bilateral outreach with international partners.

In our U.S.-EU Safety and Sustainability webinar on June 30, the FAA and the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport—DG MOVE—affirmed their commitment to increasing aviation safety and building a more sustainable industry. Underscoring this commitment is our strong track record of aviation safety, as codified in bilateral agreements, as well as our shared priority to address climate change.

SAFETY AND SECURITY

Safety is an area where all of us have no choice but to take firm, consistent, and data-driven action as regulators of the global aerospace industry. I know we all agree that we can compete vigorously when it comes to our nation’s industries, but that we never compete on safety. There’s no better example of this than your actions and constant coordination during the safety evaluations for the grounded Boeing 737 MAX aircraft and the reintroduction of MAX into airline service in Europe.

Your cooperation was key, and it has improved the transparency and sharing of knowledge between us. This teamwork is particularly important as we harmonize certification policies and processes, address continued airworthiness challenges, and take a fresh look at human factors in the design process.

The collaboration on the MAX gave us a big head start on reassessing our processes in advance of major aircraft certification reform legislation that was passed by the U.S. Congress in late December. That legislation directed us to 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 would require aircraft manufacturers that hold both a type certificate and a production certificate to implement safety management systems, consistent with international standards and practices.

I’ll add that our relationship with the European Union Aviation Safety Agency, or EASA, continues to be positive, and we’re collaborating on certification reform through the Bilateral Oversight Board.

Action is what we both did when Belarus intercepted a civilian airliner in its airspace—a clear violation of the international agreements that are the lifeblood of the international aviation system.

The U.S. strongly condemns any action taken by a foreign government that may potentially compromise the safety and integrity of international civil air navigation, and we strongly support calls for an international, transparent, and credible investigation of the May 23, 2021, Ryanair diversion to Minsk Airport.

INNOVATION

Action is also synonymous with innovation, and we are seeing rapid progress on that front both domestically and internationally.

The FAA recently granted Virgin Galactic a license to fly spaceflight participants from the company’s New Mexico or California launch sites through July 2022. The approval required Virgin Galactic to show that its launch vehicle's hardware and software worked safely and as intended during a previous test flight.

In the orbital domain, we marked a first for U.S.-European collaboration in commercial space in May. That’s when the FAA and NASA launched 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 International Space Station, 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, since 1989, we have conducted more than 400 FAA-licensed commercial launches, none of which have resulted in fatalities, serious injuries, or significant property damage to members of the public during any FAA-licensed launch.

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 Urban Air Mobility—leave me optimistic about great progress to come in the transportation realm. And I know this—because of our trans-Atlantic partnership, it will be a shared destiny.

CONCLUSION

And that gets me back to my opening, which was also my conclusion: Based on our shared history, we cannot overemphasize the power of this partnership.

It was 10 years ago in May that we signed the bilateral aviation safety agreement, the BASA, between the U.S. and EU. The BASA enables EASA to validate our approvals of aviation products and parts, and allows the U.S. to validate EASA’s certifications. This trust-based reciprocal acceptance of safety findings has steadily reduced the duplication of work by both organizations. It enables all of us to concentrate on new technology and higher risk safety issues. That’s good for our agencies and for the travelling public. 

Without trust and collaboration, the BASA would not have been possible. And the same is true for all of our work together, now and into the future. Safety is a journey that we will embark upon together, as we have always done.

I’ll close with something that Administrator Dickson said at the Safety and Sustainability webinar in late June that drives home the point: “We’ve proven we can accomplish more, with better results, when we work together.”

Thank you for your time, and I look forward to the meeting.