Says He Will Work With TSA On Access Issues
By Tom Patton, ANN News Editor
FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt made his first appearance at
Oshkosh as Administrator Thursday, bestowing The Wright Master
Pilot Award on EAA Founder Paul Poberezny, and taking questions
from some of the several hundred pilots in the audience.
Paul And Audrey Poberezny
The Wright Master Pilot Award recognizes pilots with 50 or more
years of flying, and Poberezny certainly qualifies. His wife Audrey
received a special recognition pin at the ceremony.
Then it was down to the
Administrators annual briefing, and question and answer session.
Babbitt, himself a pilot and former Eastern Airlines captain, gave
an almost glowing "state of the industry" report. Aviation
accidents are down significantly, he said and "not because
people are flying less." The rate of fatal accidents is down 12
percent over last year, which Babbitt called a "significant
improvement." Controlled flight into terrain is down by more than
half, and weather-related accidents are down by about 40
Babbitt attributed many of the improvements to technology,
things like glass cockpits, both OEM and retrofit, improving
pilot's situational awareness. But, he added, flight hours are
down, and fuel prices are partly to blame. "You can't stay sharp if
you're not up there flying," he said.
Runway safety is also improved, he said, with incursions down 7
percent overall, and serious runway incursions are down more than
70 percent over last year. But there are still nearly 70 runway
incursions per month, and "that's not an acceptable rate", he said.
New, lower cost technology is also being developed to address the
runway incursion issue.
He gave the LSA segment of the industry a good report card as
well. The LSA Fleet is up to 8100 aircraft, he said, and reporting
relatively few fatal accidents. The overall rates on LSA fatalities
are on a par with the GA sector of the industry.
Finally, he talked about NextGen, and how it will benefit all
segments of the aviation industry. Over 20,000 aircraft are
equipped to take advantage of NextGen already, and LPV approaches
are making airports more accessible than ever before. Babbitt said
he hope to have horizontal and vertical guidance into 2000 more
locations by the end of next year. Other technology will
continue bringing traffic and weather information directly
into the cockpit, so that the pilot can see exactly what the
controller sees on an LCD display in the cockpit. Like transponders
are now, Babbitt said ADS-B technology will be required for flight
into certain airspace by 2020.
FAA Administrator Randy
Then it was time for questions and answers. On a question about
the apparent growth of restricted airspace encroaching on
recreational flying, Babbitt said the advent of new technology
should be able to shrink some of those restricted areas. A question
was posed about "Through The Fence" access of people living on or
very near airports, as well as the apparent crackdown on "Hanger
Houses" in some regions. A deputy administrator gave a very
unpopular, if accurate, answer about Federal land use rules and
"case-by-case" disposal of "Through The Fence" access, and was in
fact booed by some of the pilots in the audience. Babbitt smoothed
things over somewhat by saying he would take a look at the
On the question of fees, Babbitt said "When we take a look at
the overall system, which is the best and most efficient in the
world, someone has to pay the bills." There are taxes on cargo,
passengers, and fuels, but with people flying less, and more
efficient engines using less fuel, that takes a bite out of the
budget needed to run the system. "At the end of the day," he said,
"we have to find a way that everybody can pay their share to
sustain the system we have."
A question was posed about the
possibility of eliminating the third class medical. FAA's chief
flight surgeon Fredrick Tilton said the agency declines only 0.1
percent of all medical applications, but that is in part because
people who apply can generally pass the medical. "The first thing I
worry about is safety," he said, "but we bend over backwards to get
people in the air."
A question posed by ANN's Jim Campbell pointedly called out TSA
as placing an undue burden on GA pilots trying to fly. "When will
the FAA put its foot down," he asked. Babbitt drew a laugh then
applause from the crowd when he answered "Would you like me to call
the president and tell him I'm taking TSA back?" He went on to say
that there was no permanent administrator for TSA, but that he
expects that it will happen soon. "I have no counterpart at TSA,"
he said. "I intend to sit down and lay out the case, look at the
facts and the areas where we can help them(TSA)." "We're going to
work very hard to resolve this issue," he added. "So that if you do
want to go fly, you won't be put off" because it's too much of a
Babbitt will be at Oshkosh until Friday, a place he seems to
genuinely enjoy. "Where else can you tailgate under the wing of a
172 or an A380?" he said.