FAA Administrator Meeting with Israeldoes it fit within Aviation Global Leadership Initiative’s objective criteria?

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Administrator Huerta discussed with Minister of Transportation Yisrael Katz, CAAI Director General Joel Feldschuh, and others, the future of civil aviation and possibilities for expanding cooperation with Israel, particularly aimed at developing new, innovative technologies for the aviation sector. The December meeting was with one of the US’ closest aviation and trade partners, with which there exists a technical relationship of the highest levels, as evidenced by these agreements. Global aviation outreach makes immense sense, but should such a trip be high on the Administrator’s busy schedule?

faa israel meeting huerta

Administrator Huerta, on a recent trip to Dubai, explained to the global aviation community and the civil aviation officials in attendance, reiterated for that audience’s benefit his agency’s Aviation Global Leadership Initiative. The reason why that site was selected was explained in the following text:

“With the Middle East experiencing a booming aviation economy, Administrator Huerta is focused on how the FAA can work collaboratively with other nations on key issues such as air traffic management, safety oversight, airport expansion and manufacturing.”

That statement demonstrates the strategic value of his travel to the Middle East.

As noted before, the FAA’s hands have been unduly tied by Congress when it decided to delete the word “promote” from the safety body’s authorizing language. In fact, a former FAA Administrator bluntly told the Hill in testimony that the word should be reinserted in the FAA. The FAA needs to be at the forefront of aviation safety around the globe and the fiscal constraints of its budget have caused the FAA to close its international offices—a bad idea.

At a time when EASA has announced its intention to expand its global presence, it is vital that the FAA’s reestablishing its influence among the world’s CAAs be considered a top priority. It is encouraging the Administrator Huerta articulated a set of Strategic Initiatives which include a Global Leadership Initiative:

“Aviation is also a global industry and millions of Americans travel overseas every year. The FAA must continue America’s heritage as world leaders in aviation and set the standard for others to measure against. Aviation was invented in America, but other nations have seen their aviation systems grow dramatically and have become significantly more influential on the international stage. The FAA needs to be at the table to shape international standards to improve aviation safety and efficiency around the world.”

That’s exactly the direction which his agency needs, but as noted above, the FAA has limited resources, especially its international travel budget. Under such circumstances, there is need to align those goals with quantifiable, objective benchmarks. The FAA’s Portfolio of Goals has defined exactly such measures for other elements of the FAA’s strategic goals; for example, here is the quantification of the first safety standard:

“Number of fatalities, including ramp accidents and other fatalities as a result of the accident, divided by number of passengers and crew on board flights.”

That sort of precision assures that the staff will strategically and carefully allocate its human and financial resources to reach that metric.

The public documents associated with the Global Leadership Initiative Goal do not include such performance criteria. Hypothetically such a list of guidelines might include some of the following points:

  • Regions and countries for which aviation activity is forecast to increase, listing the CAAS of the highest growth forecast as priorities (the Middle East and Dubai is a good example of such targeting).
  • An assessment of CAAs, which are predisposed to be a US aviation ally, as opposed to those authorities which evidence comity with other regulatory regimes. Oddly, there is a relatively objective method to measure this “scale.” The structure of the FARs is noticeably different from the EASA regulations. A simple comparison would establish the array of CAAs. A higher priority might be assigned for countries in the middle of this spreadsheet. Perhaps, given the special knowledge of the State Department and the FAA’s own international experts, judgment might be exercised to address those not aligned. Whatever diplomatic tactic is selected, it would seem that the lowest allocation of FAA resources should limit the attention given to the CAAs which are rock solidly in the US camp.
  • Countries with aeronautical business developing; in particular, economies which are focused on airframe, powerplant and avionics engineering, manufacturing and certification.
  • Query whether it makes good policy to visit countries with which the FAA has the highest levels of BAA and/or BASAs? They are clearly already sympathetic to the US certification approach by these government-to-government contracts.
  • Query whether time and attention should be devoted to selling NextGen to countries which cannot afford to buy that expensive technology?

To repeat, these are only thoughts about what might be the criteria which order priorities. Assuming that there is some validity to these policy articulations, a visit to the CAAI might have been deferred.

Maybe there was a need to offset some bad will due the FAA’s ban of US carrier flights to Israel after the Hamas rockets within the range of the Ben Gurion International Airport, failing that an early visit to the same region as his last trip, to a country with which the FAA has one of its most sophisticated BASAs, with a CAA which lifts the text of the FARs verbatim, with a Parliament which rewrote its aviation safety law to satisfy the FAA’s “independence” requirement and a long term (closest?) ally would not appear to fulfill any vital strategic goals of a Aviation Global Initiative.

Maybe the FAA should create a set of objective criteria to drive its actions and measure its success in this Strategic Objective?

 

PRESS RELEASE: FAA Administrator Visits Israel

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