Speech by Michael Huerta, Deputy Administrator, FAA
Delivered at the China Civil Aviation Development Forum, May 11, 2011
Standing here today, I am reminded of something President Hu Jintao said during his historic state visit to the United States in January. Upon arriving in Washington, he noted the purpose of his visit was to “increase mutual trust, enhance friendship, deepen cooperation, and push forward the positive, cooperative, and comprehensive China-U.S. relationship for the 21st century.”
These are key factors that help build and strengthen partnerships, including our partnerships in aviation.
President Obama said in his welcome to President Hu that, “We have an enormous stake in each other's success.
In an interconnected world, in a global economy, nations – including our own – will be more prosperous and more secure when we work together.”
While the FAA seeks to build stronger ties with all of our global partners, we consider the U.S.-China aviation relationship one that stands alone. It is a relationship where we have not only a reason, but an obligation, to work together.
Why do I use the word obligation? I use it because China and the United States have the two largest economies in the world. We have two of the largest aviation systems in the world. And we have the two busiest airports in the world – Atlanta and Beijing. The world is watching us and what we are doing to improve aviation safety and efficiency. We need to be on the same page going forward.
One key area that calls for our mutual cooperation is the modernization of our aviation systems of the future. In the United States, we call this NextGen. China, Japan, Europe and other major aviation systems have their own plans as well.
When you consider the theme of this forum, there is nothing more important to Accelerating the Transformation of Global Civil Aviation than how we modernize our aviation infrastructures. We are transforming our entire aviation system – the technology, the leadership and our overall philosophy for moving aircraft.
We have a clear vision for where NextGen will take us in the next 15 years, and we are laying the foundation for the future today. In the last year alone, we have had some very tangible accomplishments with NextGen.
First, we formally adopted GPS-based surveillance technology to track aircraft. This technology is called Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast, or ADS-B.
This is an official FAA operational system. That means the technology works and it’s funded.
In the Gulf of Mexico, where there is no radar, this GPS-based surveillance system has brought us to levels of safety and precision never seen before. The improved weather and communications ability there helped us deal more effectively with last summer’s oil spill off the coast of Louisiana. And today helicopters in the Gulf are saving approximately five to 10 minutes a flight and about 100 pounds of fuel each flight thanks to ADS-B.
In Seattle, GPS-based precision approaches – called Required Navigation Performance – are helping equipped airlines save fuel, cut noise and lower emissions. This is our “Greener Skies Over Seattle” initiative. Alaska Airlines is joining the FAA, the Port of Seattle and Boeing in the project to develop these approaches.
We estimate that airlines using GPS-based arrival procedures at Seattle Tacoma International Airport will save a total of about $9 million per year at today’s fuel prices. And that number is only going to get larger as more airlines equip. These aircraft will emit less carbon dioxide – about 34 tons less per year. That’s like taking 5,600 cars off the streets of the Seattle region.
Southwest Airlines started using RNP approach procedures at a dozen airports in January. They estimate they’ll save $60 million a year in fuel once they use these procedures system-wide.
And we will all benefit from fewer emissions and less delays.
These are accomplishments from just the past year. I’m very excited about the real advances we’re making today with NextGen.
These programs will set the stage for greater safety, efficiency and a smaller carbon footprint system-wide.
This is a critical time for the global community to work together. Ensuring interoperability and a seamless global aviation system for our future starts with the foundation we lay today.
Another area where I see potential for working together is general aviation. You could say that we share a destiny for cooperation, for it was 100 years ago this year that the famous aviation pioneer, Feng Ru, left California with two airplanes and his ingenuity to return to his homeland in China. While our general aviation markets have followed different paths of development, we face similar challenges.
Today, there are more than 220,000 general aviation aircraft in the United States.
General aviation represents an indispensable part of the U.S. aviation system and our economy. It contributes $150 billion each year and accounts for more than 1.2 million jobs. Add to this the fact that most commercial pilots were trained at some point in their careers using general aviation airplanes, and it’s easy to appreciate the importance of this industry.
At the same time, general aviation represents one of our greatest safety challenges. The FAA’s primary goal is to reduce the general aviation fatal accident rate by 10 percent in the next 10 years. I know that’s an ambitious goal, but of course we hope to do even better.
The FAA will take a four-pronged approach to transforming the safety culture in general aviation through training, risk mitigation, outreach and safety promotion.
We are particularly concerned about the fatal accident rate with amateur-built and other experimental aircraft.
While these aircraft account for just over five percent of all general aviation flight hours, they account for about 22 percent of all fatal general aviation accidents. In March, we issued an advisory circular that provided guidance and training recommendations to owners, pilots and flight instructors who fly experimental aircraft.
In addition, we recently completed our annual General Aviation Safety Standdown, which focuses on education about specific safety issues. Last month, the agency held nearly 100 safety education events throughout the United States. These events focused on situational awareness, maneuvering airspeed in flight, going beyond preflight checks and professionalism.
Chinais a large and growing market for general aviation aircraft, and I would like to further explore ways we can work together to improve safety. There is much we can share from our experiences in the United States. I know there will be things we can learn from China as general aviation continues to grow.
Runway safety is another area where the global community can come together to reduce runway incursions and excursions. We can reduce incursions with improved airport markings such as enhanced taxiway centerlines and runway status lights. We can minimize the impact of excursions by adding an extra safety area around the edges of the runway. And where there isn’t enough room to do that we can build areas made of special materials, such as soft, crushable concrete, that can stop an aircraft if it overshoots the runway.
In the past decade these special beds have stopped seven aircraft in the U.S. and the passengers and crew safely exited the aircraft. This system works.
Earlier, I mentioned the importance of mitigating the environmental impacts of aviation on our planet. It is a topic that takes us back to our obligation to work together.
While aviation’s overall contribution to global carbon emissions is small – about three percent – it is growing. It is a global challenge that calls for global solutions. We all need to work together through the International Civil Aviation Organization to find these solutions.
Last year the global community set goals at the ICAO Assembly in Montreal that will improve the sustainability of aviation for decades to come. The United States and China were central participants in that effort.
While ICAO’s members did not reach complete accord, there was general agreement to pursue a voluntary goal worldwide to improve fuel efficiency by two percent annually in the next decade. This will save fuel costs as well as reduce harmful emissions.
The United States has even more ambitious goals in the next decade. We have robust efforts and partnerships in the areas of technology, alternative fuels, and operational improvements.
These will help us achieve carbon neutral growth by 2020 from a 2005 baseline. Our approach – based on new technology, air traffic procedures, and sustainable aviation fuels – provides a positive and common basis for cooperative U.S.-China action to address our industry’s emissions.
I believe our countries hold a shared view on the need for a global approach that is cooperative among individual states, regions, and the industry. One region taking a one-size-fits-all approach and imposing it on the rest of the international community will not be helpful.
Each country should choose the set of strategies most appropriate for its own aviation industry in contributing to our common goals through ICAO.
We must work together in a collaborative manner to reduce carbon emissions to foster sustainable aviation growth. By doing this, we will continue to shrink distances and open economic opportunities for both our countries.
We look forward to further collaboration in this area with our partners in China, and I hope other countries will join us in cooperative efforts to pursue more ambitious goals.
I opened my remarks with some thoughtful words from both of our presidents.
When he spoke at the White House in January, President Hu mentioned some key ingredients of cooperation. He said that China-U.S. cooperation should be based on “joint efforts to meet challenges and extensive involvement of the people.”
And President Obama underscored the importance of working together. He said that our cooperation with China should be “in a spirit of mutual respect, for our mutual benefit.”
These are good words for partners to work by. It is in this same spirit of cooperation that I see much success ahead as we continue our work with Administrator Li and the entire CAAC to make our world a safer and greener place to fly.