Acting FAA Administrator Bobby Sturgell
FAA Administrator Bobby Sturgell acknowledged the controversy
surrounding the proposed new policy for administering and enforcing the
homebuilt 51 percent rule, but chose to concentrate on general aviation
safety and new safety initiatives in his opening remarks before a forum
crowd Thursday morning.
appeared at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2008 in the now traditional, Meet the
Administrator session. He made a few remarks before taking questions
from the audience.
the 51 percent rule Sturgell said, "As you know we have our
proposed policy out there. It had come to our attention that some
companies simply were not following the letter of the law."
"For safety’s sake
and for the integrity of the system, we just can’t let that
happen," he added. "I’m sure no one in this crowd is
involved in that, but it does circumvent the safeguards that are built
into the system. When we say 51 percent of the plane must be put
together by hand and not by the kit maker, that is what it is all about.
As [EAA President] Tom mentioned, our regulations have essentially
remained unchanged for 50 years."
aim of the policy change is not to punish folks," Sturgell noted.
"It goes back to the integrity of the system, as well as being able
to continue to support and encourage the homebuilt industry, which has
been a tremendous innovator that has had a spillover effect to other
parts of the industry."
the safety issue Sturgell addressed the safety trends related to
trends unfortunately are increasing both in terms of accident numbers
and in rates," he said. "We have a partnership with Tom and
EAA to help bring these down."
Joint Aviation Safety Committee has formed a new subcommittee for
amateur built aircraft safety. That includes representatives of the
General Aviation Manufacturers Association, the Light Aircraft
Manufacturers Association, the Aviation Safety Foundation and the EAA.
The group met for the first time Wednesday at EAA AirVenture.
addition to the subcommittee, FAA has also created an internal working
group that will study amateur built aircraft flying patterns.
focus area for Sturgell personally is runway safety.
one area where I do believe we do need to do better on is runway
safety," he said. "GA [general aviation] pilot deviations
continue to be the primary source of runway incursions. And what is
disturbing for me as a pilot is the number of controller
instruction-read back issues. The pilot is told to hold short of a
runway, the pilot reads back the instruction correctly, but proceeds to
enter the runway anyway. It’s something that is just extremely
thing this does point out is that human factors will always continue to
be an issue in aviation," he added.
encouraged everyone to visit the runway safety display here at EAA
AirVenture and to use the runway safety resources the FAA has published
on the www.FAASafety.gov.
issue of special issuance medical certificates Sturgell reported that
the FAA backlog is now almost nonexistant and that processing seldom
requires more than 15 days. He credited partnerships with EAA and other
organizations as having resolved the longstanding issue.
closed by asking everyone in the crowd to comment both on the proposed
changes on administering and enforcing the 51 percent rule, and the
proposed changes to the light-sport aircraft rules.
respect that you all may feel differently about proposed policy changes.
I just want to encourage you to weigh in with your recommendations and
comments. I think with our record on light-sport aircraft we are trying
to be responsive. We are trying to work out the issues together during
our rulemaking and at the end of the day everyone should see that the
industry can grow, and still maintain the safety trends that we need to
Meet the Administrator
By James Wynbrandt
contentious Q&A period of AirVenture’s annual Meet the
Administrator session was uncharacteristically subdued this year.
Perhaps it reflected the "acting" status of the current
Administrator, or his considerable aviation roots that soothed the
crowd. Edited text of the questions and Sturgell’s answers follow.
noted a frightening trend in enforcement as exemplified by the FAA’s
action against Southwest Airlines for lapses in its maintenance program.
Is the FAA changing its stance from a cooperative approach in favor of
When you look
back on the track record of the last ten years, you can’t argue with
the outcome; it’s the safest period we’ve ever been in aviation.
Part of the reason that you’re seeing that success is efforts like the
FITS program and the voluntary disclosure program. What we have tried to
stress is the importance of balance between enforcement and cooperation.
The partnership attitude has created a much safer environment and one
incident shouldn’t change that. But we’ve got to have the
flexibility to use enforcement when we need to.
read reports of low morale and high workloads leading experienced Air
Traffic Controllers to retire. Why won’t the FAA reopen contract
negotiations with NATCA [National Air Traffic Controllers Association]
to alter the terms of the 1998 contract, if it would help retain
Controllers can retire at age 50 with 20 years of service, or at any age
with 25 years of service, and must retire at age 56. That’s the
mandatory retirement age. Four years ago we laid out a ten-year plan to
hire and staff facilities in anticipation of the retirement of
experienced controllers. We hired 1,800 controllers last year; this year
we’re hiring more than 1,900. We’re conducting fewer operations per
controller than we were back in 2000. I want them to be well paid, and
the contract we put in place did not cut anybody’s base pay.
believe top FAA officials have purposely lied to Congress. Do you have a
policy for your top officials to lie to Congress when expedient as long
as they are not placed under oath?
David, I talked
to you [about this] yesterday. If you have factual information, we’re
obligated to consider that. If you’ve got proof that people are lying
to Congress, bring it to us.
seeking a special issuance medical certification so I can get my license
back. What recourse do I have if I’ve been turned down?
If you have data
that supports a different position than we’ve taken, if we made a
mistake or you have new information, or your situation changed, please
let us have that information. We have three doctors (here at AirVenture)
answering certification questions right now. They can look directly at
your record and see what your situation is. We try to get every single
person [seeking to regain their medical certification] back into the
your take on user fees? You like it, or you don’t like it?
I expect to see
another short extension [of interim FAA funding] which I would not
support. I’d rather get a long extension and see how the
administration changes. Given the drastic changes we’re going to see
on the commercial side [of aviation], and I think changes on the GA
side, what we’re trying to do is make the system more fair, and make
users cognizant of the cost of the system. At the same time we’re
trying to protect those folks that are flying where they’re not
driving a lot of our costs. We do see the high-end side uses the upper
airspace and major metropolitan airports. We’re trying to strike a
airports are very much troubled because TSA has come around leveling a
lot of requirements for increased security, and chain link fences, and
small towns do not have the resources to support that.
meet with the Administrator of TSA on a fairly consistent basis. The
next time I’ll bring them the message that ‘We can’t afford the
security you want us to provide.’ I hear you guys. [But] a little on
the flip side, the folks that attacked us on 9-11 aren’t going away.
Just keep in mind, aviation continues to be their preferred target.