Critics have criticized the FAA for moving too slowly toward modernization, but FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said the agency has “made more progress than you might realize” in a speech to the opening session of the National Business Aviation Association in Las Vegas Nov. 17.
Huerta said the nation’s aviation safety regulator has “flipped the switch” on hundreds of new performance-based arrivals and departures that will save $11.4 billion over the next 15 years.
He also said a new service called Datacom is already delivering text clearances for takeoff and taxi at New York, Memphis, and Salt Lake City, and, next year, 50 more airport control towers. Route clearances will be texted to cockpits from en route control centers in 2019.
Huerta also addressed unmanned aerial vehicles, saying they are “disruptive technology” in more ways than one. So-called drones have been seen by pilots at 10,000 feet, and by control tower operators out their windows. He expects 700,000 new unmanned aircraft will be given as gifts this holiday season to people who don’t realize they are now pilots with responsibilities. He will soon receive recommendations from a task force established to study a registration requirement for all but the smallest unmanned aircraft. The FAA issued a press release saying new drone operators need not hire a company to register, because the process will be simple.
Other speakers included Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin and Rep. Dina Titus, who represents the Las Vegas strip. Titus joked that her district includes a wedding chapel with a mechanical arm that throws rice on your windshield, and has local laws that allow you to breast-feed your baby while carrying “…not one, but two concealed weapons.” Gov. Fallin said she came within three hours of joining the ranks of other pilots in her family before events ended her pilot training. Both of her children became pilots before they turned 21.