Making general aviation even safer

OSHKOSH — “What we see at Oshkosh is the foundation of what makes the U.S. great — passion, innovation and freedom,” FAA Acting Administrator Michael Huerta told an AirVenture crowd today. “But with freedom comes responsibility.”

This was the first visit to AirVenture for Huerta, who grew up just down the street from historic Flabob Airport in Southern California. He began his remarks by noting that a focus of the FAA is to decrease the number of fatal accidents — and it’s working, he said. For example, in the last five years, CFIT accidents have decreased by a third, as well as VFR into IMC accidents. Fatal accidents at night are also down, while experimental accidents are 17% lower than in 2009.

“All that’s good news, but we have to make GA even safer,” he said, noting that there were 271 fatal accidents last year. “Too many of those are attributable to conscious risk taking.”

That’s why he encouraged pilots to take some steps to make this a “summer of safety,” including “going beyond the preflight, avoiding complacency and planning for the unplanned.”

He also encouraged pilots to reach out to their fellow pilots to encourage them to get additional training or participate in WINGs seminars. “Develop personal minimums,” he said. All this will help “make the world’s safest system even safer,” he said.

He noted that the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) will be key to increasing safety. “NextGen will provide GA with increased situational awareness,” he said. “ADS-B will overcome the limits of radar.”

He noted that ADS-B has already proven itself in its test bed in Alaska. “Equipped aircraft had 47% lower accident rates,” he said.

He acknowledged that equipping for NextGen will cost general aviation pilots, but said it “is an investment.”

He added that NextGen is a “very important” project.

“It is the largest infrastructure project undertaken in the country,” he said. “We’ve been talking about modernizing the airspace for a long time. Some people think of it as a science project, but it’s really not that way at all.”

He added that NextGen will require a “significant and long-term roll-out.”

He noted that the ground infrastructure for ADS-B will be in place by 2013. “We will make sure we have all the capabilities in place by 2015, well in advance of the 2020 mandate.”

The FAA is requiring all aircraft that fly in the busiest airspace, including general aviation aircraft, to be equipped for ADS-B Out by 2020.

Look for more on NextGen and other topics the acting administrator discussed in the Oshkosh forum in future posts.


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