Acting FAA Administrator Michael Huerta made his first appearance at AirVenture in the top job Thursday, July 26th, but the crowd that gathered only filled about a third of Forum Pavilion 7. It was not an auspicious beginning, but as the session wore on, it became obvious that the no-shows were missing little.
After a rambling speech that was long on boilerplate and short on detail, Huerta got around to the annual Q&A that has become one of the hallmark political events of any Oshkosh. During the question and answer session, which was not moderated by EAA as had been anticipated, Huerta took questions on a number of issues of concern to the GA community, but was not particularly specific in his answers. On the certification of new products and airplanes, Huerta said it is one of the major priorities for the agency. "One of the things that we're very focused on is how can we continue to find the most efficient ways to certify a new product and get it to the market more quickly."
Asked about user fees, Huerta said the President is focused on "the long-term sustainability of the aviation system. The FAA is funded through a combination of fees, ticket taxes, fuel taxes, and so forth, and then general fund support. We all know that as a government, we are dealing with some pretty significant fiscal challenges. And so I think the conversation that the President was trying to start is a conversation about how can we reduce the reliance on the general fund." He said the agency has heard "a lot" from the aviation community, and "that is a conversation we're going to continue to have." He did say that in the current budget year, there is not a lot of support in the House and Senate for an increase in user fees.