Video remarks by FAA Associate Administrator for Aviation Safety (Acting), Chris Rocheleau, before the 33rd African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC) Plenary Session

Hello everyone.  I’m Chris Rocheleau with the FAA, and it’s a great honor to address the 33rd AFCAC Plenary Session. 

I’d like to personally thank the AFCAC Secretary General for the invitation to attend, as well as the Rwandan Civil Aviation Authority, and the Director General, for hosting this meeting. 

I was very much looking forward to spending time with you in person. 

Unfortunately, I will have to wait a bit longer as the world monitors the potential effects of the latest coronavirus variant. 

We have come a long way and learned a great deal in a short time.  I think we can all agree that the aviation community’s response to the global pandemic and its impact on aviation has made us stronger than ever.  Our commitment to safety, international cooperation, to travelers, and the aerospace sector has never wavered.  In fact - I would note our collaboration in the ICAO Council’s Aviation Recovery Task Force was a great example of our global work.

Aviation remains safe and resilient, despite the challenges. Because of this shared focus, we are well-positioned to embrace the opportunities before us in the near future. 

I want to confirm the FAA’s pledge to working together to bring back aviation better than ever. 

On that note, a few of you know since we last met I began a new role at the FAA.  I am now the executive responsible for all aviation safety activities, to include drones and other emerging technologies.  The FAA’s new Executive Director for International Affairs is Lirio Liu.  She is an accomplished aviation expert with a strong international background.  I can assure you that you have a trusted partner in her, as well as the rest of the FAA. 

We all know that the current pause in international travel due to the continuing concerns over COVID is just that – a pause.  Working together - we have made sure that aviation can remain viable and resilient to deliver people and cargo to their destinations. 

That’s how we overcome challenges and grasp opportunities – by collaborating and sharing knowledge.  We’re working together on safely integrating new technology, exciting new entrants, including drones and advanced air mobility, and even commercial space travel.  I’m proud of our collaboration on drones to date - through our virtual events, our webinars, and the workshop we held in Rwanda last year.

I also know a number of African nations are exploring flying taxis and I’m optimistic about their potential.  We are eager to share with you what we’re learning in the United States.  I think we’ll probably see the first licensed flying taxi operations here, in about three years.

It is difficult to be precise on exactly when, because as you know, safety—not the calendar— will drive the schedule.  Our job as aviation authorities and regulators is to balance innovation with providing an airspace system that is safe and efficient, but also has the public’s trust. 

In fact, we have to constantly reevaluate the safety of all aspects of our aviation system. 

I want to emphasize our continuing support for aerodrome safety through the meetings we’ve had, including the Aerodrome Certification Workshop in Rwanda a few years ago, and the Runway Safety Workshop most recently in Togo. 

We plan to discuss runway safety in Africa at an upcoming webinar, and we’re working with ICAO to identify dates.  The event will be open to everyone in the region, and will include both FAA and regional experts.

Training is another area where we continue to work together.  Our partnerships more recently include BAGASOO, Kenya’s East African School of Aviation, and the Ghana Aviation Training Academy.   

In advance of the 41st ICAO Assembly next year, we plan to work alongside our global colleagues—including AFCAC—to make technical contributions to environmental sustainability initiatives like CORSIA.   

Climate recognizes no borders, so our success or failure will depend on all of us coming together to explore global solutions.  

Drones, aerodrome safety, training, and environment are just a few areas we are currently engaged with AFCAC and its member States and we look forward to more opportunities to partner with you in the coming months.

Let me close with the following thoughts…. through the challenges … the crises … the disruption of the past two years and even the potential for new challenges in the months ahead … comes the opportunity to enhance safety while becoming an industry that is more connected, more equitable and sustainable for all of its stakeholders.

We are excited to be part of the journey with all of you. 

We look forward to meeting with you in person in the near future to reinvigorate our relationships, and to start writing the next chapter in the success of this great industry.    

Please accept our best wishes for a productive and enjoyable conference.