Strong support for the continued
availability of avgas, a re-emphasis on professionalism among
general-aviation (GA) pilots, and a surprise visit by Secretary of
Transportation Ray LaHood marked the annual Meet the Administrator
session with FAA chief Randy Babbitt at AirVenture on Thursday.
(left) with FAA chief Randy Babbitt. Photo by Hilary Lawrence
"It's always a great thrill for
me" to be at AirVenture, Babbitt, a lifelong pilot said, noting
that he had attended the fly-in before becoming FAA administrator.
"This is aviation. This is the place
for pilots to get together, to see new inventions and swap hangar talk.
I look forward to coming here, as administrator or not."
On the subject of the availability of
avgas or an equivalent fuel, an issue of increased concern due to
efforts to eliminate leaded fuels, Babbitt said: "I'm keenly aware
of the focus this community has on avgas.
"I assure you we have a good
relationship with the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). There is a
very cooperative dialog. It's important to note they're just starting
the process of learning; they're now soliciting an advance notice of
Babbitt said the FAA and industry were in
agreement on the issue, as evidenced by the meeting of the General
Aviation Avgas Coalition
Working Group at AirVenture the previous
day, involving NBAA, AOPA, EAA, GAMA, and aviation and industry
"We have a commitment to work together so there will not be any
interruption of avgas," Babbitt said.
Safety and professionalism, V.2010
Babbitt also returned to the theme of professionalism among GA
pilots he raised during his appearance at AirVenture last year.
"Everyone has answered the call to be more professional, and the
numbers prove that," he said, citing statistics that showed fatal
accidents were down 13 percent in 2010 over the equivalent period last
"That's not good enough," he
"For us to solve the problem, we
need to understand where these accidents are coming from."
Among the accident causes Babbitt then
citied: accidents in amateur-built aircraft, often involving
high-performance aircraft the pilot was not properly trained to fly;
flying VFR at night without proper preparations; and CFIT (controlled
flight into terrain) accidents.
"We should all ask ourselves, every
single flight, am I prepared today?" Babbitt advised, strongly
advocating recurrent training for GA pilots.
"Commercial pilots have to do it.
Why shouldn't you get recurrent training? You don't have to be a
professional pilot, having someone paying you to fly airplanes, for you
to be professional."
Meet the boss's boss
Midway through his prepared remarks Babbitt introduced a special
guest, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood.
"We could not be more pleased to be
here at Oshkosh for our first visit as Secretary of
Transportation," LaHood said after his introduction, "to give
you a lot of encouragement to continue to promote aviation and general
"I wanted to be here to support all
of you and support general aviation and tell you we at DOT care about
what you do, about the Oshkosh event, about the week [of AirVenture],
that general aviation is a critical, absolutely important part of the
aviation system in this country and around the world," he continued
LaHood noted that he represented Central
Illinois in Congress for 14 years, and that the region had a strong
general aviation community.
"I know how important what you all
do is, and we will continue to make sure your flag of honor, your badge
of honor flies very high at the Department of Transportation."
Future flying, TTF…
Upon retaking the podium, Babbitt addressed NextGen, whose rules
require GA aircraft to be equipped with ADS-B-out capability by 2020.
"I think we should all appreciate we're going into the digital
age," he said.
"How we handle [aircraft]
surveillance and communication will change, and will change for the
better. Everybody's going to have access to a lot more airports and
[instrument] approaches that will give you horizontal and vertical
information" at airports that currently have non-precision or no
instrument approach procedures, among other benefits.
In the Q&A session that followed
Babbitt's prepared remarks, questions ranged from local issues, such as
expansion of protected airspace in southern California and recurrent
checkrides for Part 135 charter operators outside of the United States,
to the "through the fence" (TTF) operations at airports that
have allowed access from adjacent properties, such as residential
developments. At last year's session Babbitt said the agency, which had
recently announced opposition to these arrangements, would re-examine
the issue. When questioned this year he noted that FAA teams had visited
75 airports that have such agreements.
"The bottom line is, we're taking
comments," Babbitt said. "We'll digest those comments, and
that rule should be out by the end of summer."