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FAA’s New Acting Administrator Attends AirVenture

Forum presentation discussed FAA initiatives and ingenuity in GA community

By Megan Esau, EAA Assistant Editor

July 27, 2018 - FAA’s Daniel Elwell attended his first EAA AirVenture Oshkosh in the role of acting administrator, speaking before an engaged crowd at Theater in the Woods Thursday morning.

Elwell’s remarks covered a span of topics that impact the general aviation community, including the FAA’s reassessment of its certification standards for pilots.

“We’ve changed our airman certification standards so that tests focus less on memorization and more on critical thinking and risk management,” he said.

Elwell touted the FAA’s BasicMed alternative to third-class medical certification, which allows pilots to be examined by their own doctors. He said since it was introduced in May 2017, more than 36,000 pilots have signed up and met the requirements of the program.

Elwell also touched on the proliferation of new technologies in aviation, highlighting the work the FAA is doing with the industry to bring affordable, safety-enhancing equipment into all cockpits and recognizing the safety innovations coming out of the GA community. A great example of this work is EAA’s groundbreaking STC program, which has fostered new growth in the certified avionics market.

“The ingenuity, especially in the experimental side of aviation, to bring into the cockpit those things that aviators know they need — better weather reporting, better situational awareness — this community finds innovative and usually affordable, simpler ways to do those complex things,” he said.

This extends to ADS-B, which the FAA has mandated that all pilots must be equipped for by January of 2020, a deadline that Elwell reminded AirVenture attendees will not be extended.

“We offered an equipage incentive last year, and about 10,000 of you took advantage of it,” Elwell said. “We’re actively looking for additional ways that we can make this an easier task.”

In a discussion with EAA CEO and Chairman of the Board Jack J. Pelton, Elwell also talked about what the FAA is doing to ensure that the integration of UAS into the national airspace proceeds safely.

“We’re not going to go forward with UAS [operations] in manned airspace until we know it’s safe,” he said. “To that end, we announced 10 participants in a pilot program … teamed up with industry to demonstrate different applications of UAS that are under development and conception. … We can gather data, and we can see what it is that the UAS community has to offer and how they plan to operate under controlled conditions.”

Addressing the pilot shortage facing the industry, Elwell said it’s not an issue the FAA can tackle on its own. He emphasized the importance of all members of the aviation community welcoming and inspiring the next generation to get involved.

“GA is the heart of America’s aviation system,” he said. “It’s one of the things that sets us apart from the rest of the world. We have to protect the legacy we inherited from the pioneers that came before us, and we need to make it even stronger so we can pass it on to the next generation.”

Elwell said he sees value in EAA’s AirVenture in this respect, and also for the interface that the event provides for the FAA to meet EAA staff and members to learn more about the issues affecting GA.

“Face-to-face conversations on issues are more important than anything else you do,” Elwell said. “It’s critically important, because that’s where we lay the initial connectivity for the future. It’s where the ideas come from. People will ask, ‘Why aren’t you looking at this?’ and then we get together with the leadership of EAA and say let’s do that.”

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