Members of the Air Force Safety Center attended this year’s Airventure 2010 in an effort to increase awareness among the general aviation community about the service’s Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) efforts. Partnering this year with the FAA, the goal of Safety Center officials was to build awareness among the general aviation community about ongoing efforts between the organizations to integrate RPAs into the national airspace system, officials said.
“The Air Force and FAA both recognize the rapid growth of RPAs and their growing importance into the myriad facets of aviation,” said Lt. Col. Jay Guetersloh, the Safety Center’s RPA safety branch chief. “We both recognize the need to integrate RPAs into the NAS, and we’re working on developing the rules of the road so we can move forward.”
Guetersloh added the purpose for attending this year’s event was to put a face to the Air Force’s efforts to build confidence among attendees that Air Force officials are aware of concerns among the general aviation community. Officials also want GA pilots to know they are committed to the safe, seamless and transparent integration of RPAs while minimizing the impact on day-to-day general aviation operations.
The FAA’s and Safety Center’s display booth featured video presentations and pamphlet information on RPA safety. According to officials manning the booth, daily presentations on RPA capabilities, operations, safety statistics and future plans generated significant interest. They noted that RPAs are such a topic of interest that presentations enjoyed maximum attendance each day.
On July 29, the booth’s staff received a special visit from former major league baseball player Larry Hisle, who enjoyed a 13-year career with the Philadelphia Phillies, Milwaukee Brewers and Minnesota Twins during the 1970s and 80s.
“I’m jealous of you guys,” Hisle said. “When I was young, I wanted to fly real bad, but I didn’t think I had the qualifications, so I chose a different route, major league baseball. But what you are doing is amazing and I feel so much better knowing you are protecting me every day.”
Aside from the “celebrity” visits, the Safety Center staff said they believe they made a positive impact on many visitors.
According to Mark Robbins of Minneapolis, Minn., he has some concerns with RPAs operating among general aviation aircraft, but understands their utility and is glad the Air Force is operating them. “I have a nephew deployed to Afghanistan, and I’m sure he appreciates having you overhead looking out for him, knowing you’re there if he needs you,” Robins said.
“This is an extremely rewarding opportunity,” said Guetersloh. “I’m excited that we are able to reach out to this many people, passionate about aviation, at these events, and highlight our commitment to maintaining a safe flying environment for both the general aviation community and the Air Force.”