Administrator Michael P. Huerta
“I actually think we’re doing a damn good job.”
Michael P. Huerta has been the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration since December 6, 2011. Initially he served as Acting Administrator, and on March 27, 2012, President Barack Obama formally nominated him to serve as the Administrator for a term of five years. His nomination was subsequently confirmed by the U.S. Senate on January 1, 2013 and sworn in on the 8th; so, under the statute his term will end the eight day of January of 2018. With a Republican in the White House, Mr. Huerta has four months remaining in the top position. His FAA service is over eight years; he began as Deputy Administrator in 2010.
No other Administrator has held the office for almost eight years. That feat is testament to his executive skills and political acumen. Other Administrators have fallen prey to a number of Capitol Hill tank traps. Mr. Huerta successfully negotiated all those hazards while
- moving NextGen forward effectively;
- introducing truly transformational regulatory concepts like SMS, the new compliance philosophy, Part 23, etc.;
- dealing with 23 short term extensions of the FAA authorization;
- implementing the regulations for aviation’s most disruptive technology in decades while avoiding serious flak from Congress, drone nation and opponents;
- to name a few of his accomplishments!!!!
A political scientist might define the remainder of his term as “Lame Duck.” That label is inappropriate; for, though his retirement date is set, his voice has not been diminished. A careful review of his speeches under Secretaries LaHood and Foxx would detect a track of pronouncements designed not to ruffle any feathers. Since January 20, 2017, the Administrator’s statements have been forthright, truthful and sagacious.
His trip to the EAA AirVenture at Oshkosh, the Administrator issued some major VERITIES—
1. According to Oshkosh Northwestern, he made the following pointed comments about privatization:
a. “I don’t think (privatization) should be reviewed as an indictment of the agency’s ability to do its job.”
b. “Nonetheless, we have a new automation system deployed at every air traffic control center,” he said. “We have new automation systems at all of our terminal facilities. We have deployed performance-based navigation at every metropolitan airport in the country. I actually think we’re doing a damn good job.”
→ The quotation gave the GA audience a great deal of succor that the battle over privatization may be won.
2. AINonline captured the following insights:
a. “All aircraft flying in controlled airspace are going to need to be equipped with this technology [ADS-B] by January 1, 2020. That deadline hasn’t—and won’t—change,” Huerta told attendees on Thursday at EAA Airventure 2017 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. “Repair stations around the country are already getting booked up with installation appointments. And it’s only going to get worse as the deadline approaches.”
b. Only about 26,000 aircraft are equipped, but up to 160,000 aircraft will need to be equipped, he noted. Manufacturers have developed a number of options with units available for $2,000, Huerta said. “The FAA is also trying to make this as painless as possible.”
c. The agency announced a $500 incentive to eligible aircraft owners to help defray the costs of installation. “I didn’t think we’d have a problem giving away free money. But we still have 12,000 incentives available,” Huerta said. Noting that the program expires on September 18, he implored, “Please don’t leave this money on the table. Manufacturers have done their part. The FAA has done its part.”
d. Modernization must take place to meet the growing demand, he said, adding, “We look forward to a reauthorization that helps the FAA build on its safety record, modernize our nation’s air traffic control system and ensure one of our nation’s most valuable assets—the air above our heads—remains available to all Americans.”
e. He stressed that discussions about the future of general aviation and commercial aviation in the U.S. must go hand-in-hand. “No other country in the world has a GA community as large and diverse as ours. We all want that to continue. We want your ranks to grow.”
3. EAA’s website covered the Administrator’s speech before an engaged audience at his “Meet the Administrator” forum Thursday at Theater in the Woods.
a. Huerta talked about the innovation he’s seen during his tenure as administrator and how the FAA plans to facilitate the growth of such innovative ideas going forward. He pointed to the redesign of Part 23 as setting standards for performance rather than dictating how things are manufactured, and to the recent approval of EAA’s STCs allowing safety-enhancing experimental equipment into type-certificated aircraft.
b. Huerta also discussed with EAA CEO and Chairman Jack J. Pelton how recent reorganization within the FAA will help innovative technologies make it to the market quickly and more efficiently than in the past.
c. “The problem with that is we had seen the manufacturing process begin to change a lot over the past couple of decades,” Huerta said. “And what that was setting up was a situation where we were having to work across directorates to have the expertise to formally evaluate what innovations and technologies are taking place. It takes too long, has too many layers, and what we were really focused on is reacting to whatever the industry puts in front of us.”
d. As the forum was opened up to audience questions, much of the conversation shifted to general aviation’s ongoing battle against ATC privatization. “My advice to everyone is we need to be thinking about what is going to work for the whole community, not what is working for my segment of the community,” Huerta said. “And that just means that we need to invest the time and the effort to fully understand where everyone else is coming from as part of this debate and see where there are opportunities to build bridges and reach agreements on how we’re going to solve this.”
e. He emphasized that much of the shortcomings in modernization efforts that the FAA has had have been directly related to the lack of stable and predictable funding from Congress, a challenge he said would make it hard for any organization to create progress.
f. Huerta closed his discussion with Pelton by circling back to his belief that partnership, even more so than innovation, is what has helped the FAA work with GA and other segments to solve problems and preserve America’s position as having the safest, most efficient, and most friendly airspace in the world.
g. “Yes, we have this debate raging on Capitol Hill,” he said. “Yes, we as a country may feel more divided than we’ve felt in many years, but let’s not lose sight of the fact that we’ve accomplished a great deal in aviation and we have done it because we have done it together. We have come together as government, as industry, as individuals all trying to figure out how we can do the greater good for this community that means so much to all of us.”
Administrator Huerta may be a short termer, but he is speaking important wisdom for all to listen.