Transatlantic Partnership is Strong, Critical to Safe, Green Global Aviation

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

US-EU Safe and Sustainable Aviation Webinar

Thank you, Andrew [Charlton]. It’s great to join some of the most respected leaders in global aviation.   

I thank the European Commission, Henrik, and everyone at DG MOVE for co-hosting today’s event.

Usually, this is the part in the speaker’s introductory remarks where they say: “This is an important period in aviation.” 

However, has there ever been a period in aviation’s history that was NOT important?  Growth and recovery. Disruptive global events. And, the unrelenting pace of technology.

For these reasons, this period is no different nor less important.

Our industry connects the world. Aviation can accelerate recovery. And, more importantly, this industry can be a catalyst for change — for new solutions and technologies that make our world better. 

And, in this moment, it is for us to ensure the safe resurgence of an aviation industry battered by COVID-19, and in the longer term, make flying safer while protecting the environment. That’s why we’re gathering for this webinar.

Let’s take a look…

We’re beginning to see an increase in passenger travel after more than a year.  

We’re seeing rapid innovation with drones, rockets, and other new vehicles.

And we’re facing heightened challenges too – like cyber threats, and climate change.

The FAA is committed to making aviation safer, more efficient, and greener around the world. We do this as both an operator and as a regulator. And we can only meet that goal through strong alliances with other nations.

President Biden made this clear on his trip to Europe earlier this month for the U.S.-EU Transatlantic Summit. He reaffirmed the primacy of the U.S.-European alliance. The bonds we have forged through NATO and countless other areas continue to serve the interests of both sides.

The FAA strongly values our safety partnership with the European Commission and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency. The U.S.-EU Aviation Safety Agreement is the bedrock of our partnership.

As part of this agreement, EASA validates our approvals of aviation products and parts, and we validate EASA’s certifications. The 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.

Together with the EU, we are working with stakeholders, manufacturers, and operators to enhance safety around the world. We’ve proven we can accomplish more, with better results, when we work together.

One example is our close work on the safety evaluations for the grounded Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. The U.S.-EU cooperation improved the transparency and sharing of knowledge, and showed us new ways that we can work together in the future.

I’ve said many times that safety is a journey, not a destination. Aviation safety must always be approached with humility. It’s important that we always keep this in mind. And most journeys are better when you have trusted travel mates taking that journey with you!

If the last couple of years have shown us anything, it is that passengers expect the same level of safety no matter where they travel. As a worldwide aviation community, it is incumbent on us to work together to deliver on that expectation.

This requires us to constantly look for ways to make flying safer – whether it’s through a better understanding of human factors or finding more effective ways to train flight crews of varying experience levels to operate increasingly complex aircraft, in an increasingly complex aviation system.

We must also broaden the use of Safety Management Systems to include aviation manufacturers, and strengthen oversight and international engagement. The success of our work together on the 737 MAX reaffirmed why these kinds of safety improvements are necessary, and why we must continue to pursue improvements in all areas.

In the middle of our work on the MAX aircraft, COVID-19 showed up. Here again, the United States and Europe stepped up. We worked multilaterally through all three phases of the ICAO Council’s Aviation Recovery Taskforce.

Through this forum, we provided consistent guidance for air carriers and airports to protect airline passengers and workers from virus exposure and transmission.

We also provided guidance on virus testing, quarantining, and transporting of vaccines.  

In the U.S., we acted quickly to issue regulatory relief for industry, and exemptions for airmen on medical certificates and recurrent training – while ensuring that all safety needs were addressed.

After vaccines were approved, we responded with lightning speed to provide medical guidance for pilots and air traffic controllers.

We also worked with air carriers to ensure the safe transport of dry ice, which is necessary for the transport of some vaccines.

And air traffic control on both sides of the Atlantic coordinated to prioritize flights carrying vaccines and medical personnel who were critical to our nation’s response and recovery.

All of these efforts allowed vaccines to get into arms more quickly, slowing the spread of the virus. 

The FAA has taken countless other steps against the pandemic, and we’re willing to share our experiences and our approach with our international counterparts.

Of course, COVID-19 is not the only major disruptor in the aviation industry. We’re seeing rapid technological advances with drones, rockets, and other new vehicles. The pace and breadth of these advances will only accelerate.

The FAA issued two major rules on drones earlier this year: Operations Over People and Remote Identification. And we’ve stayed in close contact with our EU colleagues on drone regulatory developments.

The U.S. and Europe must continue to work together to promote global integration of these new technologies, while ensuring that all safety, security, and environmental needs are met.

At the FAA, safety will always be the prevailing principle and purpose that guides everything we do. We’re also concerned about the potential safety risks of climate change and extreme shifts in weather that could affect aircraft performance. And we recognize the need for aviation to be environmentally sustainable.

Under President Biden’s leadership, the United States has made tackling the climate crisis a major priority, and we reentered the Paris Agreement.

The President announced a 2030 target to reduce our domestic greenhouse gas emissions by 50-52 percent compared to 2005 levels. And the Administration’s American Jobs Plan makes key investments in our nation’s sustainability efforts.

Of course, aviation is a key front in this battle. And the FAA is pursuing a number of efforts to make flying greener.  

We continue to research technology improvements to improve fuel efficiency.

We continue to research feedstocks and processes that can be used to develop sustainable aviation fuels.

We continue to reduce aircraft fuel burn through NextGen and other ways to achieve more efficient air traffic procedures.

But these efforts will take time, and we need to do more to reduce emissions in the near term.

So the United States continues to support the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation, or CORSIA. We believe CORSIA is a practical, market-based way to address CO2 emissions.

The U.S. can’t do this alone. We want to broaden global support for CORSIA and ensure continued global implementation by all ICAO Member States.

To do this, we must continue to work together in multilateral forums such as ICAO, and through direct, bilateral outreach to enable a sustainable global aviation recovery.

Climate change is the world’s greatest environmental threat. And we are eager to expand our research collaboration with our European colleagues to address this significant challenge. The Sustainable Aviation panel discussion can be a jumpstart to this effort.

Today’s event is a chance to shine a spotlight on the safety and sustainability challenges affecting aviation today. And we look forward to continuing the dialogue and progress in the months ahead.

Before closing, I thank my colleague, Ali Bahrami. After three decades with the FAA, and four years as head of the Aviation Safety organization, Ali recently announced his retirement.  

Ali, you’ve made a substantial and positive difference during your career. I thank you for your service and for your steadfast commitment to aviation safety.

Until Ali’s successor is named, Chris Rocheleau will act as Associate Administrator of Aviation Safety. Many of you know Chris from his work in our international office, or from his time as the FAA’s Chief of Staff. We know he will bring the same energy, focus, and commitment to his aviation safety role as he did to his previous endeavors.

Thanks everyone, and I’ll turn it back over to Andrew.

Thanks, Andrew, for moderating today’s webinar.

We had a robust discussion today. I thank all of the panelists for joining. You each brought a unique and important perspective to the discussion.  

The Safety Panel demonstrated that the U.S.-EU Safety Agreement is at the heart of what we do. It lays out the framework for us to work collaboratively on safety issues and there is ongoing conversation on a multitude of issues at the technical working level.

The FAA, European Commission, and EASA work with one another and industry to come to the safest, most efficient processes.

Our technical teams communicate regularly on a wide range of issues – like eVTOL, drones, and environmental approvals – to collaborate, share best practices, and harmonize where possible. This way, when we each make policy, it is based on data and well-thought out decisions. 

The recovery pace for international travel is still unpredictable. But we know that people expect and deserve a high level of safety when they return to the skies, regardless of where in the world they are flying.

The citizens of the US, the EU, and around the world, are expecting us to work collaboratively to build upon current levels of safety. Whether with traditional aircraft, or with emerging vehicles, we must work together to certify civil aviation products in the safest and most efficient way possible.

On the safety panel, I was impressed with the focus on cooperation and collaboration. It’s absolutely critical. The US has a different regulatory system than the EU. We work to harmonize, but that doesn’t mean we always agree. That’s a good thing in my view. Ultimately, let’s use that process to get to the best possible solutions.

Today, we’ve also talked about making aviation greener. We’ve looked at ways to reduce fuel burn and carbon dioxide emissions.

We’ve also looked at the development of sustainable aviation fuels. And we want to ensure global support for CORSIA.

The Sustainability panel highlighted the importance of having a plan and the U.S., EU, and industry are looking at a multitude of ways to address aviation’s climate impact.

To be successful in drastically reducing emissions, we need to work together and work towards globally implementable solutions.

Coordinating research projects, connecting researchers, and making smart decisions with our respective areas of expertise helps us develop the data and tools we need to address the climate crisis.

The FAA is eager to take the next steps. As I said at the start of this meeting, we value our longstanding partnership with the European Commission and EASA. By working together, we’ll continue to be successful.

Thanks again for an informative and beneficial event. And we look forward to continuing and expanding our partnership in the months and years ahead.