USTDA East and Southern Africa Airport Modernization Reverse Trade Mission – Welcome Remarks

Former Deputy Administrator A. Bradley Mims (March 1, 2021 - June 14, 2023)

Thank you, India [Pinkney]. Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to the FAA. 

We’re happy to host you here today to discuss airport modernization. We’re eager to work with you to strengthen airports, and aviation systems, across the African continent.

I’ve taken more than 20 trips to Africa. One of my most notable visits was in 1998. We took a 3-day trip there, as part of the Clinton administration. 

We visited South Africa, where I had the good fortune to meet President Nelson Mandela, and other countries as well.

During that time, we announced the Safe Skies for Africa initiative. As part of that effort, we teamed up with African states to improve aviation safety, security and air navigation services.

I also helped lead efforts to secure Open Skies agreements with many African states. Through these agreements, we’ve greatly expanded passenger and cargo flights to and from our respective continents.

Today, we have a chance to build on the progress we've made. We have a chance to strengthen and expand our cooperation, so we can fulfill shared priorities. 

We must do it. And the FAA and the Biden Administration are ready to continue our exchange of best practices. 

Safety is our highest collective priority. And one major key to our success has been the use of safety management systems – or SMS – by commercial airlines and some manufacturers. 

We know many African aviation authorities expect their operators to use SMS, and we can work together in this area.

This month, the FAA published a final rule requiring more than 200 of our nation’s busiest commercial airports to implement SMS. The rule becomes effective on April 24th, and it will help airports detect and mitigate safety problems before they result in accidents or incidents.  

SMS will be an essential safety enhancer, and it’s happening at an important time, as we make historic investments in U.S. airport infrastructure. 

The FAA has also been collaborating with ASECNA and ICAO to harmonize domestic and oceanic air traffic operations in North Atlantic and South Atlantic airspace. These improvements are resulting in greater operational efficiency and enhanced safety.

And reiterating what Annie mentioned earlier from a total transportation perspective, we in the FAA also want to partner with you to reduce aviation’s impact on the climate. 

One big way to address the problem is through more fuel-efficient air traffic procedures. At airports across America, we’re implementing software that calculates the best moment to have the aircraft pushback from the gate at busy hub airports, so they can roll right to the runway. With this capability, we can reduce taxi delays and ramp congestion, and burn less fuel.

But more efficient operational procedures is only one part of the solution. The United States is scaling up the production of sustainable aviation fuels, making engines and airframes more fuel efficient, and investing into electrifying airport equipment.

The FAA is eager to share what we’re learning in all these areas. We want to continue working with African states to expand air transportation capacity; and make aviation safer, more efficient and sustainable across the continent.

We also want to work with you to integrate new kinds of aircraft activity like drones, advanced air mobility and commercial space transportation.

Of course, Africa has been a global leader in the integration of drones. We’re seeing how drones are being used in Tanzania and many other countries, to save countless lives by transporting blood and medical supplies to people in hard-to-reach areas. 

We have also seen how drones are being used to improve crop yields, inspect infrastructure, and for many other purposes. And we have seen how nations like Rwanda, Kenya and others have advanced their regulatory systems.

We’re making similar integration efforts in the United States. We can learn from you. 

We need to continue to exchange knowledge and best practices, including in areas like unmanned traffic-management systems and remote identification, so we can all take the next big step on drones. 

And this past December, at the US-African Space Forum here in Washington DC, the FAA pledged our cooperation to work with African states to develop launch and reentry regulations for commercial space transportation.

In all areas of aviation, we look forward to strengthening our US-Africa partnership.

So again, welcome to the FAA. And now, I’ll turn it back over to India…