Securing America’s General Aviation Future – Together

Former Administrator, Michael Huerta (January 09, 2013–January 05, 2018)

Remarks As Prepared for Delivery

Hello, everyone. It’s great to see you all again.

AirVenture is always one of my favorite events. But I’ll admit – this year is a little bittersweet.

It’s my last trip to Oshkosh as FAA Administrator – one of many lasts I’m likely to experience in the next few months.

In the seven years I’ve been with the FAA, I’ve been lucky enough to see some truly extraordinary things.

I’ve seen drones go from being a niche and a hobby to a worldwide phenomenon with far-reaching potential for industries and consumers alike.

I attended a commercial space launch where a reusable rocket booster landed on a ship off the coast of Florida – a feat that dramatically changed the economics of the space business.

And I’ve witnessed NextGen air traffic modernization transform from an idea to a reality that’s delivering tangible benefits to airlines, businesses, and passengers across the country.

All of this has occurred despite some less than extraordinary things happening as well. Since joining the FAA, the government has been shut down, we’ve dealt with the sequester, and we’ve endured the uncertainty of 23 short-term reauthorization extensions.

That’s no way to run the best aviation system in the world.

As most of you know, a debate is raging in Washington right now about the future of American aviation.

In my opinion, this conversation is long overdue.

The very definition of what aviation is has changed dramatically in the last few years.

And we need to have a meaningful discussion about how we can improve the services we deliver today – while preparing for an increasingly complex and growing set of users in the future.

At the end of the day, the FAA wants to deliver the traveling public and all airspace users a safe and efficient air traffic system that is second to none.

Air traffic modernization is needed if we’re to meet the growing demand in our nation’s aviation system.

We look forward to a reauthorization that helps the FAA build on its safety record, modernize our nation’s air traffic control system, and ensure one of our nation’s most valuable assets – the air above our heads – remains available to all Americans.

We can’t talk about the future of American aviation without talking about the future of general aviation. They go hand-in-hand.

The fact is, you’re a large part of what makes our system so special. No other country in the world has a GA community as large and diverse as ours.

We all want that to continue. We want your ranks to grow. And we want the kids coming here to Oshkosh today to inherit a stronger, better aviation system.

So how do we get there?

I think it comes down to a simple idea: partnership.

The history of general aviation in America was shaped by courageous pilots, visionary manufacturers, and safety-minded regulators working together.

We all have a role to play in securing its future.

The FAA is committed to doing its part. We’re working to become a more efficient and nimble organization.

We want to be a better partner.

And when I look at our record from the last few years, there’s no question in my mind that we’ve improved the way we deal with pilots and the planes you fly.

That starts with how we think about medical certification.

We recently rolled out a new, common sense approach we’re calling BasicMed.

Instead of requiring you to see an Aviation Medical Examiner and obtain a third-class medical certificate, most of you can now get an exam with your doctor and take an online medical education course to get qualified.

Now, there are a few additional criteria you need to meet, so I’d encourage you to stop by the FAA’s booth or visit our website to find out if you qualify.

More than 14,000 people have already completed their online training and are now allowed to fly under BasicMed.

But even if you have a health issue, I’d encourage you to contact our Aerospace Medicine office.

There’s this misperception out there that dealing with our medical team is the first step toward losing your license.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, we approve the majority of the requests we receive for special issuance medical certificates.

We’re not adversaries. We want you to be able to keep flying. We just want to work with you to figure out a way to do it safely.

We have quite a few members of the Aerospace Medicine team at Oshkosh, and I hope you’ll take the time to meet with them. Our doctors are highly-trained aerospace medicine experts – and many are also pilots. And they’re a terrific resource for you to take advantage of while you’re here.

In addition to changing the way we certify pilots, we’ve also shifted our approach to aircraft and equipment certification.

New technologies have the potential to kick off a revolution in general aviation. All of the building blocks are there.

Just look around us. I’m always in awe of the innovation on display here at Oshkosh.

It’s a reminder that aviation manufacturers employ some of the most brilliant minds on the planet.

They need a regulator that’s equally invested in that spirit of innovation – and the FAA is committed to being that partner.

We recently overhauled how we certify small GA aircraft.

Instead of telling manufacturers how to build airplanes, we’re defining the safety goals we want to achieve and giving industry the freedom to come up with innovative solutions.

This approach will allow us to get safety technologies off the drawing board and into planes more quickly.

Manufacturers are already planning to bring experimental aircraft equipment to new small GA planes when our rule goes into effect next month.

But the potential benefits extend far beyond that.

Engineers are hard at work studying advanced concepts like electric propulsion systems and vertical takeoffs for aerial taxis.

And some of the technology being developed for drones could also have profound implications for GA aircraft design.

The FAA will be there to meet these game-changing ideas head on – and with a more flexible attitude.

We’ve been educating our certification specialists in the field about the new rule. Our message is simple: We’re not going to try to shoehorn new ideas into the same old box anymore.

Instead, we’ll be working hand-in-hand with manufacturers to help usher in general aviation’s next great era.

But we’re not going to let the existing fleet fall behind.

We’re applying this same collaborative attitude toward certifying equipment that will modernize older planes.

One of the stars of this year’s show is Doc – a vintage bomber that was painstakingly restored to its former glory by hundreds of volunteers in Wichita, Kansas.

On the outside, that B-29 looks as good as it did the day it rolled off the Boeing assembly line in 1944.

But on the flight deck, it’s a brand new machine – with cutting-edge avionics systems that couldn’t have even been imagined seventy years ago.

Technology can help breathe new life into an aircraft. And the FAA is streamlining its processes so that you can benefit from upgraded equipment, lower costs, and higher levels of safety.

For example, we approved the Trio and TruTrak low-cost autopilot equipment last week.

We worked with CiES to approve a more reliable fuel gauge that will accurately provide fuel levels – instead of just letting you know if the tank is full or empty.

And we hope to soon certify Dynon’s SkyView, which consolidates all of the information a pilot needs to know into a single display.

These certification policies represent a new way of thinking for our agency.

And as we collaborate with more manufacturers and open up new pathways to approval, it will only get easier and faster for us to continue doing so in the future.

It’s like we’re exercising a muscle – the more we use it, the stronger it gets.

I’ve stressed this point to my team at the FAA time and time again: improving the way we work isn’t just something we should do.

It’s something we must do.

The world around us is changing – fast.

And we owe it to everyone who counts on our services – including our partners in the GA community – to do our part to keep up.

But here’s the thing about partnership: it’s a two-way street.

The FAA can’t do everything on its own.

If we’re going to succeed in securing general aviation’s future, we all have to step up.

Every year that I come to Oshkosh, I have to talk about ADS-B. And every year, the story is pretty much the same.

All aircraft flying in controlled airspace are going to need to be equipped with this technology by January 1, 2020.

That deadline hasn’t – and won’t – change.

It’s been in place since President George W. Bush’s administration. And if you’re planning to fly your plane after 2019, you’re going to have to get on board with ADS-B – soon.

Repair stations around the country are already getting booked up with installation appointments. And it’s only going to get worse as the deadline approaches.

As many as 160,000 planes need to get equipped – and only about 26,000 are currently in compliance.

It’s time to call your repair shop, make installation plans, and pick out your equipment.

Manufacturers have produced a lot of great options that comply with the mandate, and units can be found for as little as $2,000.

The FAA is also trying to make this as painless as possible. Last year, we announced a $500 incentive to help eligible aircraft owners off-set the cost of installing ADS-B.

I didn’t think we’d have a problem giving away free money. But we still have 12,000 incentives available – and the program expires on September 18th.

Please: Don’t leave this money on the table.

Manufacturers have done their part. The FAA has done its part.

Now it’s time to do yours.

ADS-B is essential to the future of American aviation.

By using satellites to pinpoint where aircraft are at any given moment, it gives us a much safer and more accurate picture of our airspace.

But it only works if everyone is using it.

The way I see it, we’re lucky to be flying at a time when we have this kind of technology available to us.

The only guidance tools America’s earliest pilots had to go by were their eyes. In fact, the first man-made air navigation aids were a transcontinental series of bonfires the U.S. Postal Service set up so mail could travel at night.

And the first air traffic control tower – if you can call it that – was operated out of a wheelbarrow by a guy named Archie League, who used two signal flags by the side of the runway to let airplanes know if they should hold or go in St. Louis.

It’s hard to imagine today, isn’t it? Although we definitely get a taste of it as we maneuver all of your planes in and out of Oshkosh every year.

But moving from bonfires and wheelbarrows to satellites and computers took less than the span of a single lifetime.

You know, visiting KidVenture is one of my favorite things to do when I’m here every year. And as I watch these young people build things and learn how flight works, it often makes me wonder:

What’s our aviation system going to look like when they’re my age?

No one can say for sure – but we’ve got a few ideas.

Some day in the not too distant future, your planes will still be sharing airspace with jumbo jets and helicopters – but also commercial space rockets, package delivery drones, aerial taxis, and other technologies that haven’t even been dreamed up yet.

One thing is for certain. The decisions we make today are going to shape that future.

And we need your help to take the next step forward to get there.

Let me close today by simply saying: thank you.

It’s been an honor to come to shows like this and meet all of you over the years.

There are folks out there who have said the FAA Administrator should always be a pilot.

I am not one – though I’m happy to say I’ve gotten to know quite a few.

But even without my own set of wings, you’ve always made me feel welcome.

And while this may be my last time here in an official capacity, I can guarantee you will see me back at some point in the future – as just another enthusiast for these gravity-defying flying machines.

Thank you.