Civil Aviation
Q&A with FAA Administrator Michael Huerta
Q&A with FAA Administrator Michael Huerta
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| Yann Cochennec 1823 mots

Q&A with FAA Administrator Michael Huerta

What are your top European priorities as FAA Administrator?

As I’ve traveled abroad to visit my international counterparts in Brussels, London and Paris over the last year, one thing became clear: aviation has become an international language all its own and it’s imperative that we use it to advance our shared safety goals. We must work together so that our efforts support a safe, harmonized global aviation system.
The United States has had much success with proactively using data to assess risks, focusing our attention where it’s needed most, and delivering safer outcomes on a system-wide level. Thanks to our collaboration with airlines, manufacturers, labor, and others under the U.S. Commercial Aviation Safety Team, we reduced the fatality risk for commercial accidents by 83 percent between 1998 and 2008. We’re now aiming to further reduce the risk by another 50 percent by 2025. I believe this shift toward a collaborative, data-driven risk management philosophy is the best step forward for our safety culture, and I know many other civil aviation authorities have adopted a similar approach.
With the pace of technological change and the increasing complexity of the global supply chain, we can’t keep doing things the way we’ve always done them. Over the past several years, the FAA has taken a long, hard look at how we certify aircraft and parts. In the past, we’ve made changes that were incremental, and often independent from each other. Now, we’re changing the way we do business. We don’t want to wait for applicants to come to us with a complete aircraft design. We want to engage with designers and manufacturers early and often, so we can make sure our regulations support the new ideas and capabilities that are coming through the door. We want to be more involved with industry and be involved at the right times.
In March, we proposed a rule that would overhaul the airworthiness standards for small general aviation airplanes. Instead of regulating certain design elements on specific technologies, the FAA is going to define the safety outcomes we want to achieve and let manufacturers figure out the best way to get there. Our new approach means we won’t need to rewrite the rules every time something changes. Instead, manufacturers can focus on finding the most efficient and effective way to meet our performance standards. This is just the beginning of the transformation of our certification process at the FAA.
Last year, we signed an agreement with EASA that said parts falling under a Technical Standard Order Authorization would be accepted by both the United States and Europe. This means U.S. suppliers no longer need to seek European approval if a part, such as a seatbelt, has been approved by the FAA – and vice versa. This will result in an estimated savings of about 1.7 million Euros for the American aviation industry in 2016 because of fewer application fees to EASA. We expect these savings to be the same or even increase in the future. We also streamlined our validation of basic Supplemental Type Certificates as part of our agreement with EASA, which means less technical involvement on very basic designs. We established similar agreements with Canada and Brazil, as well.
These types of partnerships are essential to the work we do at the FAA. And that’s particularly true as we make progress implementing America’s Next Generation Air Transportation System, better known as NextGen. In recent years, we’ve built much of the foundational infrastructure that supports NextGen, and consumers and aviation stakeholders are now receiving measurable benefits.
As we make NextGen infrastructure investments, we’re aware that we don’t operate within a vacuum. Civil aviation authorities around the world are taking advantage of new technologies to make upgrades as well. The FAA is working closely with our international counterparts to promote the global harmonization of air traffic management systems, including more common standards, technologies, and information exchange platforms. We have several efforts underway through our NextGen-SESAR collaboration in Europe, as well as in Asia and the Caribbean. We’re making inroads in Africa through our Safe Skies for Africa program. And we’ve been an integral part of developing ICAO’s Aviation System Block Upgrades, which provide countries with guidance on how, where, and when to implement the operational and technical improvements that have come out of programs like NextGen and SESAR. These partnerships are ensuring we maintain the interoperability of our systems – and provide the level of safety and service that passengers around the world expect.

Drone/UAS airspace integration is becoming a major air safety issue in Europe. What is the situation in the US?

There’s a lot of excitement around unmanned aircraft right now, and for good reason. These devices have countless potential uses, on both the recreational and commercial sides. As a safety regulator, my primary job is to ensure the safety of the public and our skies. But I also recognize that we need to do this in a way that is flexible and does not stifle innovation.
The United States is approaching UAS integration as an incremental process. We’re first focusing on less complex operations with our recent final rule for small UAS, and we are then moving to tackle more complex operations. We’re taking a careful and deliberate approach that balances the need to deploy this new technology with the FAA’s mission to protect public safety.
We’ve issued more than 6,000 exemptions to operators for non-hobbyist use of UAS. Recently, we authorized the first commercial drone flight at night. We’ve also started developing rules that will let at least some drones fly safely over people.
More than 500,000 owners of hobby-type drones have registered with the FAA. Registration helps make sure that the operators – many whom are interacting with our aviation system for the first time – know the rules and remain accountable to the public for flying their unmanned aircraft responsibly.
We’ve already begun the next steps with rulemaking for flights over people and for operations beyond the scope of the recent final rule for small UAS. I recently announced formation of a Drone Advisory Committee to provide an open venue for the FAA and key decision makers to propose actions to the FAA on how best to facilitate the resolution of issues affecting the efficiency and safety of integrating UAS into our nation’s airspace. The members will represent a wide variety of UAS interests – including industry, government, technology, retailers, research and academia.

What are the main measures the FAA is going to take to avoid safety issues created by private UAS?

On June 21, U.S. Transportation Secretary Foxx and I announced the first operational rules for routine use of small UAS. These new regulations support innovation safely, spur job growth, advance critical scientific research and save lives. According to industry estimates, the rule could generate more than $82 billion for the U.S. economy and create more than 100,000 new jobs over the next 10 years.
The new rule opens pathways towards fully integrating UAS into the nation’s airspace. It will take effect in late August and offers safety regulations for unmanned aircraft drones weighing less than 55 pounds that are conducting non-hobbyist operations. The rule’s provisions are designed to minimize risks to other aircraft and people and property on the ground. Model aircraft operators must continue to satisfy all the criteria specified in U.S. public law, including the stipulation they be operated only for hobby or recreational purposes.
It’s important to remember we will never be “done” with UAS integration. We will continue to improve the regulatory framework to permit increasingly complex operational concepts such as extended and beyond visual line-of-sight (BVLOS), integration into controlled and uncontrolled airspace and other areas.

Are some measures already implemented? If not, what is the timeframe?

The final rule for small UAS, which will take effect on August 29, is a major step forward, but we are not done. We still must address challenges such as command and control, detect and avoid, aircraft and operator certification, and how radio frequencies will be managed and allotted.
To tackle these challenges in a methodical and orderly manner, we have identified three high-level UAS strategic priorities. The first is to safely allow UAS operations in our national airspace. Second is adaptability – we want to create an environment in which emerging technology can be introduced safely and rapidly. And third, we’re looking to help shape the global standards and practices for unmanned aircraft through international collaboration.
We’re doing research and gathering data to help us craft a solid rule for BVLOS operations. BNSF Railway is currently exploring command-and-control challenges related to using UAS to inspect rail system infrastructure as part of our Pathfinder initiative.  Whatever rules we eventually craft for BVLOS operations, our primary consideration will be the safety of other aircraft and people and property on the ground.

Based on the US experience, has FAA any advice to give to national civil aviation authorities and EASA as well?

We must incorporate drone users into the safety culture that defines our aviation industry. Even if operators aren’t actually in their aircraft, they’re still aviators. And with that title comes a great deal of responsibility. While we are all deciding how best to address this challenge, we can learn from each other and share our experience. At the FAA, we’ve made substantial progress by partnering with a wide range of government, aviation, and technology stakeholders to build consensus around a broad array of education and outreach initiatives.

The harmonization between NextGen and Sesar is another major issue for the US and Europe. Where are we today?
We’ve been working closely with the European Union and SESAR to ensure that passengers continue to enjoy seamless air traffic services while flying between the U.S. and Europe, and to ensure NextGen and SESAR remain harmonized on key points as the programs evolve.  Furthermore, our Memorandum of Cooperation with the European Union is currently under expansion to enhance collaboration on the deployment phase of NextGen and SESAR.   
On what point progress has been made and what has yet to be achieved?

We have made progress in numerous areas.   Highlights include the recent agreement and delivery of a baseline NextGen-SESAR Joint Avionics Roadmap. This roadmap identifies timelines for development of aircraft capabilities for navigation, surveillance, and data communications.
In terms of separation provisions, the U.S. and Europe have been collaborating on an effort to re-categorize wake turbulence separation standards, providing input to the ICAO Wake Turbulence Study Group through a three-phase project called “RECAT.”
Distribution of aviation information remains a core principle of both NextGen and SESAR, and the FAA and Europe both led successful demonstrations this past spring connecting service providers and customers from around the world.  The demonstrations emphasized that System-Wide Information Management (SWIM) is ready now.   
To keep our eye on the future, we are increasing our collaboration with Europe on cyber security and UAS.  In fact, the FAA and EU are submitting a joint cyber security paper to the ICAO Assembly this September.  

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