Mr. Administrator, whoever you may be, here is the collective wisdom of a few FAA consiglieres on your challenges

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FAA chief urges collaboration to weigh risks and keep pace with technological innovation

 Some thoughts for the incoming Administrator

 Regulatory Challenges meriting early attention


Administrator Huerta, with his January 6 end-of-term date visible on his calendar, used a speech at the Aero Club of Washington to urge the industry to set its mind to collaborating to find consensus solutions to the challenges facing the FAA. A group of folks with over 100 years of FAA experience got together to make a list of suggestions for the prospective successor at 800 Independence to consider.


In no particular order, here are the thoughts of FAA alumni consigliere:

  • Between your nomination and your confirmation, you will likely spend some time in the building. Your signature on documents is not yet needed and technically it is inappropriate to participate in decisions.
    • Use that time to walk around the building—WITHOUT AN ENTOURAGE—and meet the professionals who work on floors 1 to 10. To be fair, just tell them your name, but you need not add that you are AOA-1 nominee. Take some time to listen to them; ask them open-ended questions, like “what do you do”, “do you like your job”, “what can management do to make you more effective”, etc.
    • Before confirmation, DECLARE in an internal FAA meeting that you have no opinion on privatization, that it would be foolish to take such a stand without having experienced the challenge.
    • In that same declaration: MOST IMPORTANTLY, that you intend to fulfill your 5 year term at a minimum. If Congress moves forward with AIRR, your mission will be to shepherd the FAA institution and people to continue to be the best at what “we do” through that transition.
    • Emphasize your intent to continue the FAA as a positive and progressive organization.
    • Try to get outside of the DMV and spend time at the regional offices, ARTCCs, FSDOs, ADOs, ACOs, TRACONs, etc.
      • same questions as above.
    • If Congress takes its time to consider your nomination, try to spend time to meet all sectors of the business
      • a sampling of the various levels of air carriers at their offices and not just the C level executives; ask for time with real pilots, mechanics, etc.
      • Same tour of manufacturers (large and small; airliners-GA, powerplants, avionics), repair stations, airports (not just the concourses, but the bowels and the offices where the business of running them is done), drone nation (fortunately several of the states have created “hives” of activities where entrepreneurs, academics, many who are attracted to this form of flight, but know not the FAA)and
Your goal is not to learn about the industry (hopefully the vetting insured that you know the business) 
but to let the regulated get to know the regulator! This task likely will not be completed while waiting 
for Congress, but continue once in office.
  • Your handlers will take you around the meet the Senators and more than a few Representatives who collectively will “consent” to your nomination and will impact your existence for the following 5 years. The Members will have long lists of FAA issues for which they want your concurrence with their constituents’ solutions. Listen, but do not promise, even if the handlers tell you that you must agree or lose a critical vote. You do not want to carry that burden— “I’ll consider it” should suffice.


  • When you arrive on the 10th floor, know that you have a very able Deputy Administrator, Dan Elwell, to whom you should have great confidence to delegate. Unlike most Administrators, you have a suite of political appointees. The folks already there have resumes and performances in their positions that show the high levels of experience and expertise needed as your key advisers at the FAA.

⇒There are many positions within the FAA which have individuals with the “acting” term as a prefix to their job titles. 
While permanent appointments will enhance the organizational effectiveness, time spent getting to know the candidates 
should result in long term benefit versus hasty decisions.
  • Now it is Day 1 of your five year term, our experienced FAA mavens suggest that you should get early briefings about:



These are the exceptional accomplishments of Administrator Huerta and Associate Administrator Gilligan. There are those within and
 without the FAA who are uncomfortable with these dynamic new regulatory approaches. A thorough understanding of the why’s and how’s 
behind these innovative initiatives will probably be needed early in your tenure to respond to these concerns.

faa nextgen benefits






⇒NextGen is too complex to articulate useful insights in fewer words 
than an encyclopedia. The Cliff Notes version is 
“do not believe those who cry that ‘the sky is falling. 
There has been considerable progress and a new perspective 
from you may help.Administrator Huerta and a succession of NextGen Officers 
have provided good oversight 
for more than 5 years; a different prism on this issue may be useful. 
[There is no NGO listed in the current FAA organization chart.]

Here’s a list of action which should be high on your priority list (remember the NPRM process consumes almost as much time as your 5 year term). These recommendations should help make FAA more nimble and responsive to industry and the traveling public including:

  • program for qualified certification Consultant companies to complete AOC’s (Pre-Application to issuance of the Air Carrier Certificate) for all Part 135 applicants except “Part 135 ten or more” (Passengers) applicants.
  • Establish an Organizational Delegation Authorization program for qualified certification Consultant companies to complete AOC’s (Pre-Application to Part 145 Certificate – Award) for all small and medium sized Part 145 applicants, both US and foreign.
  • Develop an Airport SMS incentive program to get Airports to voluntarily adopt and implement SMS
  • Create a joint industry, law enforcement, and FAA task force to provide SUPs industry training and requirements and improve programs to eliminate SUPs.
  • Establish Type Certification Requirements and Regulations (as well as the allocation of standards/enforcement of local rules [speeding, parking, etc.] for Autonomous Aircraft, hybrid aircraft and automobiles (flying cars).
  • Conduct a joint industry and FAA review of the AFS reorganization to see if these changes have created gaps which need improvements to how the FAA AFS respond to new applicants.
  • In federal land, FY 2019 starts nine months, or less, into your term. The details of the budget have massive impact on the FAA. By reducing this or that seemingly insignificant line item the result may be to cripple a program—for example the AIR staff will benefit from teaching on their new tasks, cutting a small dollar amount may be more important than the reduction looks. That decision process usually starts about December, 2017.
  • Last, but not least, spend some time reviewing the FAA’s International Strategic Plan. The Europeans are unabashedly promoting their trade agenda through EASA and the CAAs. Congress has passed legislation which limits your ability to deal with that aggression. With limited resources and one hand tied behind your back, you would be wise to begin to develop a well-reasoned set of priorities and that strategy needs to include judicious use of your time.

Sometime in January (hopefully that soon) you will enter your office, close the door behind you and sit in your big chair. Our sincere wish is that some (all) of the above thoughts will be worthy of your consideration then.


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1 Comment on "Mr. Administrator, whoever you may be, here is the collective wisdom of a few FAA consiglieres on your challenges"

  1. Experience – Knowledge (FOB 10A) & Understanding armed with Direction – Trust & Hope. .As we say out west: Saddle Up :-) Walt

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