The FAA Administrator’s Speech

by Rich Stowell on May 7, 2011

FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt delivered a keynote address to attendees of the Pilot Training Reform Symposium in Atlanta on Thursday, May 5, 2011. Here is the text of his speech, which is also available on the FAA website:

Good afternoon, and thank you, Doug Stewart. I am delighted to be here today with the movers and shakers of the flight training community. Correction – I should say flight education community – because the very name of this group – Society of Aviation and Flight Educators – makes a point I want to emphasize right off the bat.

We tend to use the words “training” and “education” interchangeably, but they’re not. Training is teaching someone how to do something. That’s important, and when it comes to teaching pilots how to aviate in terms of basic stick-and-rudder skills, training is an accurate term.

But the trifecta of airmanship requires pilots to aviate, navigate and communicate in the real world, and that’s where education is so important. Education is about teaching a pilot how to aviate no matter what, how to navigate challenges beyond the textbook, how to communicate through crew resource management. That’s what scenario-based training – or maybe I should say scenario-based education – is all about.

Education helps develop professionalism. I have often wished I could just mandate professionalism. We can make rules to require certain professional behavior, but professionalism is a lot more than rule-driven behaviors. It’s a mindset. To use flight instructor terms – I can do that, because I was one – professionalism requires application and correlation. It’s an attitude that drives you to do the right thing – every time, all the time, regardless of who’s watching. It’s about being a good aviation citizen.

If that term is familiar, well, it’s because we heard it from one of SAFE’s members, and we liked it so much that we included it in the Aviation Instructor’s Handbook. An aviation educator develops an aviation citizen – a professional – not just by training to proficiency in airplane control and aircraft systems but also by educating that pilot to:

  • Make safety the number one priority.
  • Use good judgment in making decisions.
  • Recognize and manage risk.
  • And to be accountable.

Those ideas are also in the Flight Instructor’s Model Code of Conduct, which was just released by a group of industry folks who are passionate about professionalism. I am a real believer in the value that a code of conduct can have as a tool to promote safety, good judgment, ethical behavior, and personal responsibility.

Another part of developing professionalism is mentoring – a concept I have been on both sides of throughout my aviation career. Mentoring is a transfer of experience. I learned a lot from the pilots who mentored me in my career as a pilot, and I in turn mentored my students when I was an instructor and my first officers when I was an airline pilot.

SAFE’s members – who include at least a decade’s worth of flight instructors of the year – are highly accomplished people with a lot of valuable experience to transfer. So let me congratulate you on starting the SAFE Aviation Educator Mentoring Program. I especially like the program statement that “Even experienced educators may occasionally want or need insights when teaching in new aircraft, or with new technologies and techniques.” None of us should ever stop learning.

These initiatives show how all of you, who are on the front lines – or maybe I should say the flight lines – in the flight education community are making a difference – not just today, not just tomorrow, but for the entire future of aviation. You do more than talk about professionalism – you lead the way by example. That’s what gives life and meaning to the idea of safety culture, and it will make professionalism as natural as breathing for the next generation of aviators.

So I’m very eager to have your help in developing the FAA’s five-year strategy for transforming general aviation safety. That strategy has four elements.

The first is risk management. Improving how pilots do risk management is one of the most effective ways to reduce fatal accidents. One new risk management tool is the advisory circular on Airmen Transition to Experimental or Unfamiliar Airplanes. It’s worth reading and even more importantly worth using.

The second area is training and education, with an expanded focus on flight instructors. We are working with you in a couple of key areas. One is updates to the advisory circular on Flight Instructor Refresher Courses. Another is testing. We recognize that the way the FAA does testing influences the way the industry does education and training, so we have to get that piece right. We appreciate your offer to form a steering committee of industry leaders to help us with that process.

Part three of the GA transformation strategy is safety promotion through the FAA Safety team. Partnership with industry is a key part of the FAASTeam’s approach, and we are looking at some innovative ways to enhance it. Stay tuned.

Last, but not least, is outreach and engagement with organizations like SAFE, NAFI, AOPA, and EAA, plus type clubs, manufacturers, insurance providers, academia, and anyone else who has a role to play in GA safety and professionalism. We don’t have all the answers. We need your help to reduce GA accidents.

Another area where we need your help is in supporting NextGen. I know there is a perception that NextGen benefits only big operators. The reality is that everyone in aviation stands to gain from the NextGen.

First and foremost, NextGen makes safety sense – it is already giving pilots a greater situational awareness in the cockpit and that is critical for all of us.

NextGen bundles dozens of improvements in airports, avionics and air traffic control. The entire NextGen effort will create a much more efficient, responsive, “green” airspace system that serves the public and supports our national economy.

It will take time to develop the full system, but I need your help now. GA has long been on the cutting edge of technology. Many of you were flying and instructing in aircraft with integrated “glass cockpit” avionics as soon as they came out of the factory, and I know this audience includes some of the people who literally wrote the book on using it. Because of where you fly and how you fly, you have been among the first to take advantage of the WAAS-enabled GPS approaches we are establishing all over the country – including at hundreds of smaller airports where we could never justify the cost of installing and maintaining an ILS.

So I am asking you to continue that tradition by helping us expand and validate the benefits of NextGen. You and the pilots you educate can do that by taking advantage of what is already available – not just the WAAS-enabled approach procedures, but also ADS-B. There are several major benefits.

First, ADS-B offers better surveillance in fringe areas of radar coverage. Second, ADS-B does not have the siting limitations of radar. Third, its accuracy is consistent throughout the range. And here’s a big one: aircraft equipped with ADS-B can get real-time traffic and flight information without a subscription fee. Those services exist in many areas now, and will be available almost everywhere we have radar services today by 2013.

I know that ADS-B equipage is an investment, and times are tough. But this technology has already helped GA in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico. We hope pilots everywhere will take advantage of it. So I ask that you use your influence as educators to help pilots understand the benefits, and learn to use the technology for enhanced safety. Because that’s what it’s all about – educating pilots to be safe pilots and good aviation citizens.

Thank you for inviting me and, above all, thank you for all you are doing for professionalism in pilot education and training.

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