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Speech – Airports: The Heart of American Aviation

Administrator Stephen Dickson
Washington, DC

Remarks As Delivered

Good afternoon everyone, and thank you to the Airports Council International-North America and the American Association of Airport Executives for the invitation to be here today.

Im a relative newcomer to the FAA, having started in the role as Administrator back in August. But Im no stranger to airports, having spent the last 40 years as a pilot, first as a military pilot in the U.S. Air Force at home and abroad, then at Delta for 27 years.

Over the course of my career Ive operated into airports as diverse as Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta, to Great Falls, Montana; from Eagle, Colorado, to JFK; and from Monroe, Louisiana to OHare. One thing I have realized is how incredibly efficient our airport system is in the US, especially compared to other airports around the world.

Through the collaboration of our airport operators, the FAA airports team, the Air Traffic Organization, the airlines and other stakeholders, we get tremendous utilization out of the investments in our airports. And we are currently seeing a tremendous amount of capital investment in our airports around the country. This is definitely a good thing for our communities and our economy.

At the FAA, Ive already had the chance to take part in a Part 139 airport certification inspection at the Reagan National Airport, including an airboat water rescue demonstration. The thoroughness of these reviews and the dedication and professionalism of airport employees, working behind the scenes, always ready for contingencies, make me certain that the public is in good hands both in the air and on the ground when they travel.

As Administrator of FAA, its important to me that we celebrate and recommit to our longstanding relationships and partnerships with the airport community. We have worked with ACI and AAAE for more than 70 years to ensure the safety, capacity, and efficiency of our nations system of airports.

Our collaboration is vitally important, because airports are the heart of the U.S. aviation transportation system, an economic powerhouse that is without rival anywhere in the world. Without the heart, nothing is moving. Without a healthy heart, the viability and safety of the entire system is also at risk.

Im proud to say that the heart of our aviation system is beating strong and steady. Through congressional support and the ongoing collaboration between our Office of Airports and industry, we will continue to ensure the long-term health of our entire airport system.

The depth and breadth of the airport businessand the 19,000-plus landing facilities in our systemnever ceases to amaze me. Consider that within a 25-mile radius of where were sitting right now, there are three major international airports BWI Thurgood Marshall, Reagan National, and Dullesand dozens of public, private, military airports and heliports.

One of those airports, College Park, is the oldest continuously operating airport in the world and is where the Wright Brothers first demonstrated the usefulness of aviation to the military starting in 1909. College Park was also the site of the first U.S. Postal Air Mail service and the first controlled flight of a helicopter.

Also nearby, National airport, later renamed for a famous president, became the first airport to get groovy in the late 1960sthey cut grooves into the runway to reduce hydroplaning. Think about how many accidents and incidents that technology has prevented.

We are constantly planning for the future of our airports, and testing new technology. At another local airport, Leesburg Executive, controllers work with high tech computer tools and video feeds in front of high-definition screens in a dark room rather than a tower cab. The remote tower technologies and standard operating procedures they are using are still in the testing phase, but we are making progress.

At Dulles airport, we have cameras installed at various points on the approach and departure to gather data that will potentially influence future airport design standards.

Theres much more to come. In our fiscal year 2021 budget request, we are also requesting over $200 million in airport research and technology to improve airports not just today but well into the future.

This budget includes $40.6 million for the Airport Technology Research program, directed at the safe and efficient integration of new and innovative technologies into the airport environment. This includes an additional $1.4 million to conduct research and to develop standards related to urban air mobilityalso known as flying taxis. It also includes funding for new and innovative pavement materials testing.

The budget includes $170 million in our Research, Engineering & Development account to continue other research at the Tech Center in areas that will ultimately benefit airports. Included are fire safety, human factors, advanced materials, aircraft airworthiness, and unmanned aircraft systems research.

Youll be interested to know that in January, we opened a new $5 million research facility at the Tech Center to concentrate on one on our highest safety prioritiesfinding fluorine-free alternatives to PFAS firefighting foams. Were making progress, and in fact have begun baseline testing fluorinated foams, the first step in developing alternatives.

Our ultimate goal is to continue protecting the safety of the traveling public while also addressing this important environmental issue in collaboration with our government partners, including the Department of Defense.

From the Administration, to Secretary Chao, to Congress, we are getting the support we need to continue to provide the safest, most efficient airports possible. Our priorities dovetail with the DOTs: Reducing transportation-related fatalities and serious injuries; investing in infrastructure; innovating, and being accountable.

This is important, because the number of people using the transportation system is growing, and the only way to continue that successful growth is to maintain or increase the safety, efficiency, and capacity of all of our nations airports.

According to 2019 data from the Bureau of Transportation statistics, U.S. airlines carried approximately 926 million passengers. Thats up more than 4% compared to 2018 and more than 12% compared to 2016.

To keep up with growth and maintain safety and efficiency, we are working to expedite the granting of $3.17 billion in congressionally approved Airport Improvement Funding, or AIP, and $400 million in supplemental funding this year. That makes for a total of $3.57 billion going to airports this year, and a total of $1.9 billion in supplemental funding over the past three years.

This investment reflects DOTs and FAAs commitment to our nations airport infrastructure. It supports our continued focus on capacity, efficiency, and environmental sustainability of our airports, andmost importantlyour safety related development projects, including those that reduce runway incursions and reduce the risk of wrong-surface takeoffs and landings.

Not surprisingly, the bottom line for all of our activities, investments, and research has to be this: Safety must be maintained or improved, preferably withbut not dependent ona boost in efficiency and capacity.

That core value is nowhere more visible than our work with reducing the potential for runway incursions. Through our Runway Incursion Mitigation, or RIM, program, weve been focusing our analysis and risk assessments on runway incursions and wrong surface events.

The RIM program remains the gold standard for reducing runway incursions. The FAA has shown a reduction of more than 67% in runway incursion rates at airports where weve mitigated those problematic locations.Weve completed RIM modifications to runways and taxiways at close to 50 locations, and construction is underway at another 14 locations. We have mitigations for about 100 locations in the planning or design phase.

However, as with all things related to safety, the work is never done. In particular, the Office of Airports continues to encourage industry and sponsors to address airport geometry as a primary consideration when analyzing RIM locations.

We cant discuss safety without touching on the 737 MAX situation. First off, on behalf of everyone at the FAA, I would like to, once again, extend our deepest sympathy and condolences to the families of the victims of both the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX accidents.

Our international air transportation network is a tightly woven fabric that is vital to the worlds economy. When that fabric unravels, we feel the effects globally. We have to look no further than these crashes to understand this. Onboard Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET302which crashed one year ago on March 10were the citizens of 35 countries.

We will honor the memory of those who lost their lives by working tirelessly every day to ensure the highest possible margin of safety in the global aviation system.

For the MAX, I have been steadfast in saying that our return-to-service decision will be based solely on our assessment of the sufficiency of Boeings proposed software updates and pilot training that address the known issues for grounding the aircraft. I realize this grounding has had an impact on certain airports due to airline schedule changes, but our course is set. We have no choice. If the public is not confident in their aviation system, they simply will not fly.

We at the FAA have welcomed the scrutiny and feedback from near and far on how we can improve our processes. There have been multiple independent reviews launched to look at the 737 MAX and the FAAs certification and delegation processes. Going forward beyond the MAX, we are ready to stand up and speak out on key themes that are emerging regarding aircraft certification, operations, processes, and pilot training not only in the U.S., but around the world.

One of those key themes and one of my main goals is to promote the adoption of a Just Culture and Safety Management Systems, or SMS, throughout the aerospace system, including at certain Part 139 airports.

I know SMS for airports has been a long time coming, but I want to assure you that we have not forgotten this important sector. Ive directed our folks to take a strategic look at rolling out SMS at airports. Youve provided many great comments over the past 10 years, and many of you have voluntarily implemented SMS in your organizationsthank you for that. Rest assured, there is more to come on this subject.

Its important to note that when we look broadly at what we must do to meet the publics expectations of the highest possible levels of safety globally, we have to consider everything that impacts safety, even unusual or unplanned events like the spread of infectious diseases or drones affecting airport operations.

First Ill discuss the new Covid 19 virus.

The very connectedness that makes our industry so vital to the global economy also puts us on the front lines for protecting our citizens from outbreaks like Covid 19 within our borders. We must be proactive and strategic in our responsebut tactical as necessaryas we combat the threat.

Speaking of being proactive, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the airports that took the initiative to work across federal agencies to help with the U.S. response to the Covid 19 outbreak. In particular, Id like to thank those 11 funneling airports who have worked closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as Customs and Border Protection. Your help has been invaluable and effective, and it has been noticed.

The FAA is engaged at both the national and international levels on communicable disease preparedness.Within the United States, the FAA is collaborating and coordinating daily with the Departments of Health and Human Services and Homeland Security, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Transportation Security Administration, and State and Local public health partners.

The FAAs role is essentially one of support and facilitation on this issue, but, as the focal point for aviation in the U.S. Government, we are very well positioned to bring together our civil aviation stakeholders and our international and interagency partners to work towards preventing the spread of communicable disease.

We are supporting our interagency and industry partners by facilitating operational discussions with our public health and homeland security partners. We have worked closely with CDC and CBP to develop crew health guidance and screening protocols to maximize protection of the traveling public while minimizing operational impacts to the aviation system, including airports.

We must be sure that we maintain the highest levels of safety for airports, whether we are responding to the novel coronavirus or working to integrate emergent technology and innovative new ideas that are reshaping our industry. Consider the meteoric rise in unmanned aircraft operations. In the U.S., weve registered about 1.5 million of these aircraft, thats already about five-times as many drones as manned aircraft in our registry.

The Office of Airports is actively working with the various FAA lines of business to integrate UAS into the airport environment, protecting aviation safety, while enabling airport operators to use drones for key functions. As you know, were conducting research on UAS Integration at airports to evaluate how they can be used to perform airport-centric operations, such as wildlife monitoring, aircraft rescue and firefighting operations, surveying, and pavement and infrastructure inspection.

We are also finalizing a research plan for evaluating UAS detection and mitigation technologies and establishing performance standards through the Tech Center, as well as reviewing proposals from airports looking to install UAS detection systems.

Since were talking new entrants, Ill also mention the rise in commercial space and spaceports. The FAA is making rapid progress in our regulatory role in commercial space transportation by paving the way for easier access to low Earth orbit through the National Airspace System.

Were doing this by streamlining the rules for commercial launch and re-entry while at the same time protecting national security and public safety. Theres really not much choice given that Commercial space launch activity in general has ramped up tenfold in just a few years, we either innovate and move forward, or risk being left behind.

We understand some airports embrace this new technology, but others are concerned about how it will impact their operations. All FAA lines-of-business are working together to develop operating procedures to minimize conflicts in our National Airspace System and better ways of coordinating with all of our stakeholders.

And speaking of stakeholderswhich includes communitieslets talk about noise.

Over the past two years, the FAA has implemented a standard, repeatable process to ensure productive and effective community involvement for new or modified air traffic procedures. We have also put in place the Noise Complaint Initiative, with a system called the Noise Portal, to more effectively and efficiently track and respond to noise complaints. We have been using the system internally since 2018 and anticipate opening this portal to the public by the end of March.

Of course the FAA will continue to pursue technological improvements to reduce noise, fuel burn and emissions under our Continuous Lower Energy, Emissions and Noise (CLEEN) Program, which will continue to be funded in FY21. In addition to technological advancements, the FAA is assessing take-off and landing operational procedures in order to reduce aircraft noise near airports.

Historically, the FAAs noise strategy has been to hold local community roundtables with residents, airport management, government officials, and industry, to try to develop solutions where there are concerns.

In the future, wed like to develop tool kits tailored to address specific concerns of individual communities, prepare historical traffic analyses, and evaluate the feasibility of changes proposed through these roundtables to performance based navigation procedures. Our FY21 budget request includes $4.3 million for this work.

Ill close out by going back into the history books on this topic of noise. One month from nowApril 4will mark the 60th anniversary of the very first regulations the FAA issued to minimize aircraft noise at major airports, starting with LAX, New York Idlewildlater to become JFKand Washington National.

The rules were clearsafety was the highest prioritybut where possible, pilots and controllers could use procedural methodsminimum altitudes, preferential runways, and approach and departure routes over the least populated areasto offer relief to communities.

Obviously, aircraft these days are much quieter and environmentally friendlier, but the sheer number of machines in the air 24/7/365 makes the issue of noiseand other elements of our air transportation systema continuing concern not only for communities, but for airports and other stakeholders.

Im here to tell you that we were listening then, in 1960, and were still listening now.

And thank you for listening! I appreciate having the chance to speak with you today.

Speech – Back to the Future: The Winged Gospel

Administrator Stephen Dickson
Washington, DC

Remarks As Delivered

Good afternoon everyone, and thank you for attending today.

You know, watching that video makes me appreciate all the progress weve made in aerospace in a relatively short few years, and how fast were moving into the future.

It occurs to me that children born today, when they become teenagers, will think that getting their prescriptions or pizza dropped off at the house by a small delivery drone, is just the way its always been.

And when commuting into the city, or across town, theyll do what they think folks have done foreverorder up an autonomous electric flying taxi on their smart phone, and hop in without a care in the world for their safety.

Same goes for one day booking a regional flight on an ultra-efficient hybrid-electric passenger plane, taking a supersonic airliner to Europe, or perhaps a suborbital commercial flight to Singapore.

What well see as amazing progress, theyll write off as the everyday travel grind.

But thats a good thing! If you can thoughtfully and safely integrate new forms of transportation into the national aerospace systemand hardly anyone takes noticethat is great news.

We as regulators, however, have to notice everything. That transportation futurewhich we know is no longer just in the realm of science fictionkeeps us awake at night. Theres so much promise from innovation and technology, but at the same time, so much potential for problems if we dont get it right. So we have no choicewe need to get it right.

Our job at the FAA is to strike the right balance. We have to integrate these fast-moving, sometimes breathtaking, technologies that are transforming the aviation sector in a way that meets our missionto provide the safest, most efficient aviation system possible for the American public, one the world will continue to hold up as the gold standard for safety.

Youll be happy to know that weve thought about this, deeply, and that we have many strategies in motion. At the 60,000-foot level, well succeed by sticking to our cores values of safety, through integrity, innovation, and our workforce. At the ground level, well be preachinginternally and externallya winged gospel about how to take safety to the next level by following best practices in Just Culture, Big Data, Global Leadership, and People.

I mention the phrase winged gospel as an homage to Robert Hinckley, a distinguished aviation regulator from the early 1940s. Hinckley was responsible for the Civil Aeronautics Authority and foresaw a great demand for what aviation could offer.

The government at the time was, in many ways, in the same predicament then that we at the FAA are in todayon the bow wave of innovation and new entrants that could rapidly transform how we travel. How would they ensure safety? Where would they find a new generation of skilled workers to propel its growth?

A staunch advocate himself, Hinckley is said to have preached a winged gospel that tapped into Americas near-religious enthusiasm for aviation. History has faced us with the plain alternative, he would say. Flyor perish! His solution? America had to become air-conditioned.

Now rest assured, we at the FAA are not looking to duplicate Hinckleys fly-or-perish marketing campaign. But I do see some potential in reviving his call for the nation to become air-conditioned. He defined it as a saturation of the American people in aviation skills and a general comprehension of the significance of aviation. Not a bad idea at all, in my humble opinion.

Our country, right now, is on the arc of an aerospace renaissance similar to that on which the government found itself in the early 1940s.

Our predecessors at the time had just seen the first flight of the Douglas DC-4 Skymaster and the Lockheed C-69, which later became the venerable Constellation.

These four-engine piston-powered transport planes would become the founding fathers of todays long-haul aircraft. Aviators then had also just witnessed the first flight of the Bell XP-59A, a wholly new type of aircraft a jet. We all know how that innovation turned out…

Fast forward nearly 80 years and think about the kinds of firsts we routinely witness on the technology front. Rocket boosters dropping vertically back to earth, thrusting to a halt on the launch pad; Beth Moses, the first woman to go to space on a commercially launched vehicleSpaceShipTwo; a drone delivering a human kidney, an angel flight that doctors described as One small hop for a drone; one major leap for medicine.

And lets not forget first flights of several new commercial airliners that offer double-digit fuel reductions over previous generations. We all know that cutting fuel burnand our carbon footprint is a major design concern for everyone going forward.

I think its fair to say government and industry have made groundbreaking progress in fuel economy through aircraft and engine design, as well as through our air traffic management modernization initiatives and the approval of six drop-in alternative fuels for commercial use. Consider that todays fleet of aircraft in the U.S. already has an average fuel efficiency of nearly 60 passenger-miles per gallon, on par with the Toyota Prius hybrid…but much faster.

Speaking of faster…airframers are eyeing a potential renaissance in supersonic civil aircraft, and startup civil space companies are looking to connect New York and Shanghai in less than 40 minutes. How many of those kids born this year will, in their lifetimes, take a suborbital ride, maybe as a 50th birthday gift, or heck, maybe even for their 21st! Its coming. Commercial space launch activity in general has ramped up tenfold in just a few years.

In the unmanned sector, its a pretty safe bet there are first flights every day. And Im not talking so much about novel aircraft, but first flights of new applications.

We are seeing these innovative applications in many cases through our Integration Pilot Program, which Secretary Chao launched in 2018.

Our operations-first strategy allows us to take the lessons learned from these initiatives and write better rules for integratingnot segregatingdrones into our nations airspace.

Of course, the FAA has to ensure that these new entrants are safe before they can take part in regular National Airspace System operations, and sometimes that does mean new regulations.

The FAA recently issued two notices of proposed rulemaking, one that will require drone operators to provide remote identification for their aircraft, and one that proposes how we will certify package delivery drones heavier than 55 lbs. We plan to finalize by years end, the remote ID rulea key enabler for beyond-visual-line-of-sight, or BVLOS, and the drone traffic management systems that weve been working on with NASA.

BVLOS is essential for Urban Air Mobility, or UAM, better known as flying taxis. According to my team, we are currently engaged with the builders of more than 15 electric vertical takeoff and landing UAM aircraft projects. In January, we saw North Americas first public demonstration of an autonomous two-seat flying taxian eHang EH216 taking flight in Raleigh, albeit with no passengers.

Were using a crawl, walk, run approach as we mature the aircraft technologies and air traffic management procedures to do this. And at this point, Ill note that were still in the crawling phase for both but making rapid progress.

Thats a lot of action, and were arguably far beyond what Mr. Hinckleys generation could have imagined. But just like back then, along with the promise, comes the potential challenges. Our job is to make sure that any aircraft or systems coming to market will meet the publics sky-high expectations for safety. If the public perceives a new entrant as unsafe, that business is simply not going to fly.

How do we meet those expectations? Along with sticking to the core value of safety, well be preaching the winged gospel of four themesJust Culture, Global Leadership, Big Data, and People.

Just Culture: Done correctly, a Just Culture will generate the data an operator or business needs to figure out whats really happening in their operation. If you know about safety risks you can mitigate the risks and fix the processes that led to those errors. Ill explain later in our Fireside Chat how Just Culture and other best practices will play a role in our work going forward beyond the Boeing 737 MAX.

Global Leadership: We at the FAA will lead globally by working with other authorities around the world to ensure we meet the publics expectations of the highest possible levels of safety.

Big Data: We must continue leaning into our role as a data-driven, risk-based decision-making oversight organization that prioritizes safety above all else.We do that in part by implementing Safety Management Systems supported by compliance programs.

And People: Its now time to show the next generation what incredible opportunities lie ahead for them in our field, both personally and professionally. Lets get them air-conditioned.

So thats my winged gospel for today. I look forward to working with everyone in this room and throughout the industry to bring to fruition the incredibly bright U.S. transportation future as safely, efficiently and sustainably as humanly possiblewhile remaining a model for the world to follow.

Thank you again for coming and listening, and now Ill answer some questions as we sit down for the Fireside Chat.

Speech – Helicopter Safety Time to Think Outside the Box

Administrator Stephen Dickson
Anaheim, CA

Remarks As Delivered

Good morning, everyone.

By now, everyone is aware of the tragedy that happened Sunday morning, only 50 miles northwest of this convention center.

I speak for all of us at the FAA when I say that we are saddened by this accident and the loss of so many lives, and our hearts go out to the family and friends of those onboard.

It is much too early to speak intelligently about why this may have happened, but suffice it to say that the NTSB, FAA and others are already hard at work to discover the causes. Despite what the investigators ultimately determine, we in this room know that all too often, helicopter accidents and GA accidents, in general, turn out in hindsight to have been preventable.

I left Washington on Friday prepared to deliver a safety message here and to lead the charge for action on helicopter safety. The events of Sunday morning make that mission all the more urgent. If not now, then when. If not us, then who?

Though we meet here with heavy hearts, it is good to be among such an esteemed group of aviation professionals here today with a shared focus on aviation safety.

Of course, I recognize that the helicopter community deals with safety and operational threats that are much different from my experiences in all my years in fixed-wing fighter aircraft and commercial aviation. So I felt it was particularly important to come here in person today to see for myself the depth and breadth of your industry and to hear about your challenges and concerns.

Aside from a few pleasure rides in air tour helicopters, I do not have much personal experience in your operational world, but its clear to me from a professional perspective that rotary wing aviation is an essential element of our transportation system, particularly when it comes to helping people. How many of our citizens owe their lives to rescue helicopters, or the operators that spring into action on a moments notice to carry critically ill patients to the hospital?

These aircraft are extremely versatile with unique capabilities and handle a wide variety of operations 24/7/365.

We remember now that it is only a little more than 80 years since Igor Sikorsky hovered the worlds first practical helicopter in Stratford, Connecticut. Yet today vertical lift has become a mainstay in the American aviation landscape, and theres much more to come when you think about drones and urban air mobility.

While helicopters represent a relatively small portion of our general aviation fleetabout 6% their impact is significant and even disproportionate compared to other forms of aviationparticularly when you count the benefits to society from medivac, search and rescue, police, infrastructure inspection and air taxi operations, to name just a few.

Actually, one look in the exhibit hall or in the news, makes it clear that the notion of a rotorcraft as I just described earlierone rotor spinning above your headis sorely out of date. From relatively inexpensive quadcopters the size of a basketballto faster, quieter and more autonomous traditional helicopters and tiltrotors to automobile-sized electric flying taxis that are quickly jumping from the drawing boards to the test area, todays rotary wing aviation is quickly moving outside the box that Sikorsky first flew in.

Unmanned Aircraft Systems, known as UAS or drones, are now flying in the airspace that used to be largely the domain of helicopters. I dont have to tell you the growth has been exponential.

Weve been registering drones for a little more than four years, and weve already got more than 1.5 million on the books, with more than 400,000 listed for commercial use, and weve approved two Part 135 operators.

We have also approved 27 part 137 UAS operatorswhich you may know as crop dusters. Consider for reference, weve been registering aircraft for more than 90 years, and weve got just shy of 300,000 in the manned aircraft registry.

We are learning a great deal about the innovative ways that drones can help society and be operated in the NAS through our Integration Pilot Program. Our strategy of operations first, is allowing us to use the existing regulatory regime, which helps us ensure innovation can drive forward.

UPS and FedEx are actively participating in trials to speed up the delivery of small packages and working on type certificates for small autonomous drones. Innovators up in Alaska are looking to do the same with much larger vehicles.

Said another way, over the last 3 years, weve shifted our strategy from writing rules to getting machines in the air and flyingand taking lessons learned from the operations approval process to write better rules.

Our goal in the United States, in contrast to many areas of the world, is to integrate, rather than segregate, UAS operations into the NAS. At the moment I dont have to tell you that this strategy is nowhere more important than to the helicopter community, as in many respects the need for integration is felt more acutely in the airspace where you operate than it is in the airspace where we typically find fixed-wing operations.

Knowing the location of drones is a key requirement for accomplishing the vision. Thats why the FAA recently issued a long-awaited notice of proposed rulemaking to require drone operators to provide remote identification for their vehicles.

Weve received over 6000 comments so far and welcome the public input as it will help us craft a rule that meets the safety and security needs now and for the future.

Flying taxis are on the horizon and manufacturers are getting ready for testing. According to my UAS team, we are currently engaged with the builders of more than 15 electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft projects. At CES in Las Vegas earlier this month, we saw Uber and the Hyundai Motor Company unveil a full-scale aircraft concept in their partnership to create Uber Air Taxis, and shortly after, Toyota announced a hefty investment in flying taxi developer Joby Aviation.

Also in January, we saw North Americas first public demonstration of an autonomous two-seat flying taxian eHang EH216 taking flight in Raleigh, albeit with no passengers.

Of course, the FAA has to ensure that these new entrants are safe before they can take part in regular National Airspace System operations. Were using a crawl, walk, run approach as we mature the vehicle technologies and air traffic management procedures to do this, and at this point, Ill note that were still in the crawling phase for both, but we are making rapid progress.

A key question we get from new entrants is how safe is safe? Will the fatal accident risk we accept for rotorcraft operations today be acceptable for Uber riders tomorrow? Probably not.

Wethe FAA and industryhave some important work to do in the name of rotary wing safety right now. Sundays crash comes one month to the day after the loss of seven people on a Safari Helicopters air tour on Kauai on December 26th.

These are tragic stories, particularly when families on an adventure or a quick ride to an event become the unwitting victims of accidents that, far too often, are preventable. In the aftermath of any crash, the reputation of the entire helicopter community is questioned, and the public may question whether the benefits are worth the risks.

We know from the U.S. Helicopter Safety Teams latest numbers that the helicopter sector has a fatal accident rate of approximately 0.63 per 100,000 hours, based on a five-year moving average. Thats well below the overall general aviation rate of approximately 0.94, but its not enough.

Just like the broader GA sector, pilot error is the predominant factor in fatal accidents. In fact, even when there is a mechanical component failure that leads to a crash, we often find that the component failed, because the helicopter was being operated outside its limits or the maintenance instructions were not being followed.

A key challenge we all face is that place where we have the largest number of paying passengers experiencing fatalities in our airspaceair tour operations. Im here to tell you this needs to change. We need to find ways to move that part of the industry toward the level of safety achieved by the commercial airline sector.

The good news is that with certain targeted interventions, the fatal accident rate has continued to declineand well discuss some of those initiatives later. The bad newsor it should be bad news to all of usis that the rate is still too high, and making interventions more difficult is that many of the pilots and operators in the personal/private helicopter sector are difficult to reach.

While an accident rate of zero is the ultimate goal, our Part 121 commercial airline industry today is the closest we have come to that. In the past 10 years, there have been more than 90 million commercial flights in our NAS, carrying more than 7 billion passengers, with two fatalities.

Thats a safety record thats hard to get your mind around in any human endeavor, much less one where youre carrying people in highly advanced aerospace vehicles at more than 500 mph and miles above the earth.

Granted, helicopters fly lower and slower, but theres no need for your safety goals to be lower, and frankly, for the flying taxi model to succeed, riders will likely expect an airline-like assurance of a safe flight. And why shouldnt they?

As I said earlier, the long-term GA fatal accident rate, including helicopters, is declining but we cant be satisfied. Its our responsibility to ask ourselves the hard questions and determine what more we can do to enhance Helicopter safety.

Consider that the helicopter offshore industry has a fatal accident rate that is a factor of two below the combined rate for the sector. How are they doing it and what are their lessons learned?

Thats one of the reasons why I came here to Heli-Expo, to take stock of your industry, hear your concerns, and to get up to speed on the unique aspects of helicopter operations.

When it comes to rotorcraft, Im a neophyte, and Im all ears.

I do have plenty of experience and perspective to offer from the world of fixed-wing commercial aviation safety, as you probably know: twenty-seven years at Delta, the last 12 of which I spent as Senior VP of flight operations. I was responsible for the safety and operational performance of the companys global flight operations of more than a million flights a year on six continents, as well as pilot training, crew resources, crew scheduling and regulatory compliance.

The commercial airline industrys stellar safety record in the NAS over the past decade is a testament to the evolution and adoption of risk-based decision-making processes by government and industry.

This is happening in part through initiatives like the Commercial Aviation Safety Team, or CAST, and effective tools like Safety Management Systems, voluntary safety reporting programs, flight data monitoring and sharing through data initiatives like ASIAS.

But we always, always, always need to stay humble and vigilant. We all know in our business youre only as good as your last takeoff and your last landing, and the number of takeoffs and landings need to equal each other.

Theres too much at stake to wait until the next accident occurs to figure out how to operate more safely. We have to identify accident and incident precursors so we can take actions to prevent themand shared data allows us to do that.

Some of these processes obviously are applicable to the GA and helicopter communities, and some may not be. As you probably know, weve migrated the data-driven analysis model over to GA through the GA Joint Steering Committee and through other government-industry initiatives like the U.S. Helicopter Safety Team.

Business aviation and portions of the flight training community are also well on their way to implementing data gathering, analyzing and sharing to help them and the broader industry figure out how it is performing.

In 2013, the FAA started with two members of the business aviation community participating in the ASIAS program. Seven years later, we have 100.

Thats impressive, and its a success story for our industry. But we dont rest on our laurels, because there are thousands of flight departments, single-pilot, and owner-flown operators, both fixed-wing and rotary-wing, out there who could, at minimum, find real value in Flight Data Monitoring and pilot reports, even if its just to monitor their own operations.

Using Flight Data Monitoring as feedback into your training program is a good example of a safety management system process. Safety management also relies on having a Just Culture in place so that pilots and aviation workers feel empowered to report honest mistakes and issues without fear of retribution. That atmosphere gives workers the freedom to report and provide their management with data they can use to get a heads-up on what might be an accident in the making.

Without that information, all bets are off. One year ago, tomorrow, a pilot and two air crewmembers were killed when their Bell 407, on a Part 135 flight, slammed into terrain near Zaleski, Ohio, while en route to a hospital for a patient pickup.

While the NTSB has not yet issued its conclusions, we know from the operational and human factors factual report, which was released in September, that there were issues with safety culture in that flight department.

A healthy safety culture requires some basic elements:

The organization must encourage employees to voluntarily report issues without the threat of retribution. It has to have data analysis capability to make sense of the flight data and safety reports. It needs a method of tracking and trending issues and the effects of corrective actions, and it must provide feedback to let employees know what became of their reports.

The factual material from this accident provides some good examples of what an unhealthy safety culture can look like. For example, numerous pilots and medical crew told investigators about incidents where they received, or they witnessed, pilots being reprimanded or challenged for declining flights. One pilot said he was not aware of a way to report safety concerns without getting himself in trouble.

The NTSB noted that while personnel were aware of the ways to report concerns, a number of them were uncomfortable voicing concerns due to fear of reprimand by management and the lack of previous management action on voiced safety concerns.

You can imagine how the inability to speak out might lead a pilot to take a mission when others would not. In fact, the accident flight had been rejected by two other providers. Making matters worse, the operator had stated in written materials to hospitals that they would take flights when other operators turned them down due to weather.

This accident is, unfortunately, not an isolated case of a safety culture vacuum when it comes to the helicopter and overall GA sector.

We, at the FAA, in concert with youindustryare working to improve helicopter safety on multiple frontsincluding information sharing, education about risk management and safety management systems, safety-boosting technology, and enhanced training, among othersand were always open to new ideas about how we can be more effective.

Adopting best practices is certainly a path to reducing risks. A great way to share your experiences and learn about the best practices of others is to participate in our new helicopter InfoShare program, which had its first meeting in October. Im told a key topic of discussion at the meeting was the importance of SMS, and how it can truly help helicopter operators reduce their risks. Another avenue for sharing best practices for oil and gas industry rotary-wing operators is through the Helicopter Safety Advisory Council, which has developed recommended practices that are easily adaptable to other helicopter sectors.

And have you heard of the USHSTs Safety Workshop in a Box? This is an education program where the FAAs Safety Team, or FAAST Team, along with industry safety experts, take their safety message directly to helicopter pilots.

Its a deep dive on one specific accident that educates pilots on decision-making. We tested the idea in Phoenix last year and, this year, will be taking it on the road to 10 cities and adding a second accident scenario.

The FAA is also working to bolster training related to loss-of-control awareness, pilot competency, and technical support.

In the technology area, were doing research with enhanced vision technologies to help pilots see in reduced visibilities and stability augmentation systems to make it easier to fly the machine when times are tough. Were also looking into algorithms that will make simulators accurate through a certain range outside the typical flight envelope, so that pilots can have more realistic training opportunities.

Were also working with industry to develop new helicopter Airman Certification Standards to replace the current practical test standards. The new standards will include risk management elements in all areas of operation and tasks to help develop better-prepared and safer helicopter pilots.

These efforts are a good start, but as I said earlier, were always in search of thinking that is outside the box on how we can address the accident rate.

We are serious about getting on top of the safety challenges we face in the helicopter air tour industry.

And frankly as many of you may know there is a lot of energy in Congress right now as it relates to both safety and noise concerns associated with helicopter air tours; if there isn’t meaningful action on both of these fronts very soon, I suspect the path forward will be dictated to this industry.

Our safety experts have begun developing an action plan to address the issues, and we look forward to sharing the details with our partners and stakeholders in the near future. Upon sharing this plan, we hope to receive your valuable input and support.

Before I close, I want to flag another issue we, and Im sure many of the operators in this room, are focused on helicopter noise. There is growing concern in many parts of this country about the impact of helicopter noise on communities.

This is part of a larger challenge that has been developing across the country with respect to aviation noise both around airports and often associated with air tours. And there are ongoing collaborative efforts to address noise. For example, FAA is engaged with HAIs Fly Neighborly Committee to promote community friendly flying and to educate operators on community engagement best practices.

However, without more engagement and action by the rotorwing sector, I suspect noise concerns will increasingly impact not just todays operations but our ability to integrate new users UAS and urban air mobility into the NAS.

I would urge operators to be much more proactive in their engagement with communities on noise issues and try to find constructive approaches to manage these challenges.

Thanks again for your attention. I look forward to learning more about this fascinating side of our industry and personally getting involved in making vertical flight as safe as possibleas safe as the public expects it to be. I hope to see many of you in the near future as we explore new ways to improve general aviation and helicopter safety. Together, we can do itwe must do it!

I do want to encourage you to attend the FAA: Meet the Regulators session taking place this Thursday at 8:3010:30 am, where you will get to meet several members of my senior leadership team. They plan to share information on rotorcraft safety initiatives and entertain your questions. Lets keep the dialog going.

Thanks for inviting me; I very much look forward to continuing this dialogue and our work together.

Speech – Helicopter Safety Time to Think Outside the Box

Administrator Stephen Dickson
Anaheim, CA

Remarks As Delivered

Good morning, everyone.

By now, everyone is aware of the tragedy that happened Sunday morning, only 50 miles northwest of this convention center.

I speak for all of us at the FAA when I say that we are saddened by this accident and the loss of so many lives, and our hearts go out to the family and friends of those onboard.

It is much too early to speak intelligently about why this may have happened, but suffice it to say that the NTSB, FAA and others are already hard at work to discover the causes. Despite what the investigators ultimately determine, we in this room know that all too often, helicopter accidents and GA accidents, in general, turn out in hindsight to have been preventable.

I left Washington on Friday prepared to deliver a safety message here and to lead the charge for action on helicopter safety. The events of Sunday morning make that mission all the more urgent. If not now, then when. If not us, then who?

Though we meet here with heavy hearts, it is good to be among such an esteemed group of aviation professionals here today with a shared focus on aviation safety.

Of course, I recognize that the helicopter community deals with safety and operational threats that are much different from my experiences in all my years in fixed-wing fighter aircraft and commercial aviation. So I felt it was particularly important to come here in person today to see for myself the depth and breadth of your industry and to hear about your challenges and concerns.

Aside from a few pleasure rides in air tour helicopters, I do not have much personal experience in your operational world, but its clear to me from a professional perspective that rotary wing aviation is an essential element of our transportation system, particularly when it comes to helping people. How many of our citizens owe their lives to rescue helicopters, or the operators that spring into action on a moments notice to carry critically ill patients to the hospital?

These aircraft are extremely versatile with unique capabilities and handle a wide variety of operations 24/7/365.

We remember now that it is only a little more than 80 years since Igor Sikorsky hovered the worlds first practical helicopter in Stratford, Connecticut. Yet today vertical lift has become a mainstay in the American aviation landscape, and theres much more to come when you think about drones and urban air mobility.

While helicopters represent a relatively small portion of our general aviation fleetabout 6% their impact is significant and even disproportionate compared to other forms of aviationparticularly when you count the benefits to society from medivac, search and rescue, police, infrastructure inspection and air taxi operations, to name just a few.

Actually, one look in the exhibit hall or in the news, makes it clear that the notion of a rotorcraft as I just described earlierone rotor spinning above your headis sorely out of date. From relatively inexpensive quadcopters the size of a basketballto faster, quieter and more autonomous traditional helicopters and tiltrotors to automobile-sized electric flying taxis that are quickly jumping from the drawing boards to the test area, todays rotary wing aviation is quickly moving outside the box that Sikorsky first flew in.

Unmanned Aircraft Systems, known as UAS or drones, are now flying in the airspace that used to be largely the domain of helicopters. I dont have to tell you the growth has been exponential.

Weve been registering drones for a little more than four years, and weve already got more than 1.5 million on the books, with more than 400,000 listed for commercial use, and weve approved two Part 135 operators.

We have also approved 27 part 137 UAS operatorswhich you may know as crop dusters. Consider for reference, weve been registering aircraft for more than 90 years, and weve got just shy of 300,000 in the manned aircraft registry.

We are learning a great deal about the innovative ways that drones can help society and be operated in the NAS through our Integration Pilot Program. Our strategy of operations first, is allowing us to use the existing regulatory regime, which helps us ensure innovation can drive forward.

UPS and FedEx are actively participating in trials to speed up the delivery of small packages and working on type certificates for small autonomous drones. Innovators up in Alaska are looking to do the same with much larger vehicles.

Said another way, over the last 3 years, weve shifted our strategy from writing rules to getting machines in the air and flyingand taking lessons learned from the operations approval process to write better rules.

Our goal in the United States, in contrast to many areas of the world, is to integrate, rather than segregate, UAS operations into the NAS. At the moment I dont have to tell you that this strategy is nowhere more important than to the helicopter community, as in many respects the need for integration is felt more acutely in the airspace where you operate than it is in the airspace where we typically find fixed-wing operations.

Knowing the location of drones is a key requirement for accomplishing the vision. Thats why the FAA recently issued a long-awaited notice of proposed rulemaking to require drone operators to provide remote identification for their vehicles.

Weve received over 6000 comments so far and welcome the public input as it will help us craft a rule that meets the safety and security needs now and for the future.

Flying taxis are on the horizon and manufacturers are getting ready for testing. According to my UAS team, we are currently engaged with the builders of more than 15 electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft projects. At CES in Las Vegas earlier this month, we saw Uber and the Hyundai Motor Company unveil a full-scale aircraft concept in their partnership to create Uber Air Taxis, and shortly after, Toyota announced a hefty investment in flying taxi developer Joby Aviation.

Also in January, we saw North Americas first public demonstration of an autonomous two-seat flying taxian eHang EH216 taking flight in Raleigh, albeit with no passengers.

Of course, the FAA has to ensure that these new entrants are safe before they can take part in regular National Airspace System operations. Were using a crawl, walk, run approach as we mature the vehicle technologies and air traffic management procedures to do this, and at this point, Ill note that were still in the crawling phase for both, but we are making rapid progress.

A key question we get from new entrants is how safe is safe? Will the fatal accident risk we accept for rotorcraft operations today be acceptable for Uber riders tomorrow? Probably not.

Wethe FAA and industryhave some important work to do in the name of rotary wing safety right now. Sundays crash comes one month to the day after the loss of seven people on a Safari Helicopters air tour on Kauai on December 26th.

These are tragic stories, particularly when families on an adventure or a quick ride to an event become the unwitting victims of accidents that, far too often, are preventable. In the aftermath of any crash, the reputation of the entire helicopter community is questioned, and the public may question whether the benefits are worth the risks.

We know from the U.S. Helicopter Safety Teams latest numbers that the helicopter sector has a fatal accident rate of approximately 0.63 per 100,000 hours, based on a five-year moving average. Thats well below the overall general aviation rate of approximately 0.94, but its not enough.

Just like the broader GA sector, pilot error is the predominant factor in fatal accidents. In fact, even when there is a mechanical component failure that leads to a crash, we often find that the component failed, because the helicopter was being operated outside its limits or the maintenance instructions were not being followed.

A key challenge we all face is that place where we have the largest number of paying passengers experiencing fatalities in our airspaceair tour operations. Im here to tell you this needs to change. We need to find ways to move that part of the industry toward the level of safety achieved by the commercial airline sector.

The good news is that with certain targeted interventions, the fatal accident rate has continued to declineand well discuss some of those initiatives later. The bad newsor it should be bad news to all of usis that the rate is still too high, and making interventions more difficult is that many of the pilots and operators in the personal/private helicopter sector are difficult to reach.

While an accident rate of zero is the ultimate goal, our Part 121 commercial airline industry today is the closest we have come to that. In the past 10 years, there have been more than 90 million commercial flights in our NAS, carrying more than 7 billion passengers, with two fatalities.

Thats a safety record thats hard to get your mind around in any human endeavor, much less one where youre carrying people in highly advanced aerospace vehicles at more than 500 mph and miles above the earth.

Granted, helicopters fly lower and slower, but theres no need for your safety goals to be lower, and frankly, for the flying taxi model to succeed, riders will likely expect an airline-like assurance of a safe flight. And why shouldnt they?

As I said earlier, the long-term GA fatal accident rate, including helicopters, is declining but we cant be satisfied. Its our responsibility to ask ourselves the hard questions and determine what more we can do to enhance Helicopter safety.

Consider that the helicopter offshore industry has a fatal accident rate that is a factor of two below the combined rate for the sector. How are they doing it and what are their lessons learned?

Thats one of the reasons why I came here to Heli-Expo, to take stock of your industry, hear your concerns, and to get up to speed on the unique aspects of helicopter operations.

When it comes to rotorcraft, Im a neophyte, and Im all ears.

I do have plenty of experience and perspective to offer from the world of fixed-wing commercial aviation safety, as you probably know: twenty-seven years at Delta, the last 12 of which I spent as Senior VP of flight operations. I was responsible for the safety and operational performance of the companys global flight operations of more than a million flights a year on six continents, as well as pilot training, crew resources, crew scheduling and regulatory compliance.

The commercial airline industrys stellar safety record in the NAS over the past decade is a testament to the evolution and adoption of risk-based decision-making processes by government and industry.

This is happening in part through initiatives like the Commercial Aviation Safety Team, or CAST, and effective tools like Safety Management Systems, voluntary safety reporting programs, flight data monitoring and sharing through data initiatives like ASIAS.

But we always, always, always need to stay humble and vigilant. We all know in our business youre only as good as your last takeoff and your last landing, and the number of takeoffs and landings need to equal each other.

Theres too much at stake to wait until the next accident occurs to figure out how to operate more safely. We have to identify accident and incident precursors so we can take actions to prevent themand shared data allows us to do that.

Some of these processes obviously are applicable to the GA and helicopter communities, and some may not be. As you probably know, weve migrated the data-driven analysis model over to GA through the GA Joint Steering Committee and through other government-industry initiatives like the U.S. Helicopter Safety Team.

Business aviation and portions of the flight training community are also well on their way to implementing data gathering, analyzing and sharing to help them and the broader industry figure out how it is performing.

In 2013, the FAA started with two members of the business aviation community participating in the ASIAS program. Seven years later, we have 100.

Thats impressive, and its a success story for our industry. But we dont rest on our laurels, because there are thousands of flight departments, single-pilot, and owner-flown operators, both fixed-wing and rotary-wing, out there who could, at minimum, find real value in Flight Data Monitoring and pilot reports, even if its just to monitor their own operations.

Using Flight Data Monitoring as feedback into your training program is a good example of a safety management system process. Safety management also relies on having a Just Culture in place so that pilots and aviation workers feel empowered to report honest mistakes and issues without fear of retribution. That atmosphere gives workers the freedom to report and provide their management with data they can use to get a heads-up on what might be an accident in the making.

Without that information, all bets are off. One year ago, tomorrow, a pilot and two air crewmembers were killed when their Bell 407, on a Part 135 flight, slammed into terrain near Zaleski, Ohio, while en route to a hospital for a patient pickup.

While the NTSB has not yet issued its conclusions, we know from the operational and human factors factual report, which was released in September, that there were issues with safety culture in that flight department.

A healthy safety culture requires some basic elements:

The organization must encourage employees to voluntarily report issues without the threat of retribution. It has to have data analysis capability to make sense of the flight data and safety reports. It needs a method of tracking and trending issues and the effects of corrective actions, and it must provide feedback to let employees know what became of their reports.

The factual material from this accident provides some good examples of what an unhealthy safety culture can look like. For example, numerous pilots and medical crew told investigators about incidents where they received, or they witnessed, pilots being reprimanded or challenged for declining flights. One pilot said he was not aware of a way to report safety concerns without getting himself in trouble.

The NTSB noted that while personnel were aware of the ways to report concerns, a number of them were uncomfortable voicing concerns due to fear of reprimand by management and the lack of previous management action on voiced safety concerns.

You can imagine how the inability to speak out might lead a pilot to take a mission when others would not. In fact, the accident flight had been rejected by two other providers. Making matters worse, the operator had stated in written materials to hospitals that they would take flights when other operators turned them down due to weather.

This accident is, unfortunately, not an isolated case of a safety culture vacuum when it comes to the helicopter and overall GA sector.

We, at the FAA, in concert with youindustryare working to improve helicopter safety on multiple frontsincluding information sharing, education about risk management and safety management systems, safety-boosting technology, and enhanced training, among othersand were always open to new ideas about how we can be more effective.

Adopting best practices is certainly a path to reducing risks. A great way to share your experiences and learn about the best practices of others is to participate in our new helicopter InfoShare program, which had its first meeting in October. Im told a key topic of discussion at the meeting was the importance of SMS, and how it can truly help helicopter operators reduce their risks. Another avenue for sharing best practices for oil and gas industry rotary-wing operators is through the Helicopter Safety Advisory Council, which has developed recommended practices that are easily adaptable to other helicopter sectors.

And have you heard of the USHSTs Safety Workshop in a Box? This is an education program where the FAAs Safety Team, or FAAST Team, along with industry safety experts, take their safety message directly to helicopter pilots.

Its a deep dive on one specific accident that educates pilots on decision-making. We tested the idea in Phoenix last year and, this year, will be taking it on the road to 10 cities and adding a second accident scenario.

The FAA is also working to bolster training related to loss-of-control awareness, pilot competency, and technical support.

In the technology area, were doing research with enhanced vision technologies to help pilots see in reduced visibilities and stability augmentation systems to make it easier to fly the machine when times are tough. Were also looking into algorithms that will make simulators accurate through a certain range outside the typical flight envelope, so that pilots can have more realistic training opportunities.

Were also working with industry to develop new helicopter Airman Certification Standards to replace the current practical test standards. The new standards will include risk management elements in all areas of operation and tasks to help develop better-prepared and safer helicopter pilots.

These efforts are a good start, but as I said earlier, were always in search of thinking that is outside the box on how we can address the accident rate.

We are serious about getting on top of the safety challenges we face in the helicopter air tour industry.

And frankly as many of you may know there is a lot of energy in Congress right now as it relates to both safety and noise concerns associated with helicopter air tours; if there isn’t meaningful action on both of these fronts very soon, I suspect the path forward will be dictated to this industry.

Our safety experts have begun developing an action plan to address the issues, and we look forward to sharing the details with our partners and stakeholders in the near future. Upon sharing this plan, we hope to receive your valuable input and support.

Before I close, I want to flag another issue we, and Im sure many of the operators in this room, are focused on helicopter noise. There is growing concern in many parts of this country about the impact of helicopter noise on communities.

This is part of a larger challenge that has been developing across the country with respect to aviation noise both around airports and often associated with air tours. And there are ongoing collaborative efforts to address noise. For example, FAA is engaged with HAIs Fly Neighborly Committee to promote community friendly flying and to educate operators on community engagement best practices.

However, without more engagement and action by the rotorwing sector, I suspect noise concerns will increasingly impact not just todays operations but our ability to integrate new users UAS and urban air mobility into the NAS.

I would urge operators to be much more proactive in their engagement with communities on noise issues and try to find constructive approaches to manage these challenges.

Thanks again for your attention. I look forward to learning more about this fascinating side of our industry and personally getting involved in making vertical flight as safe as possibleas safe as the public expects it to be. I hope to see many of you in the near future as we explore new ways to improve general aviation and helicopter safety. Together, we can do itwe must do it!

I do want to encourage you to attend the FAA: Meet the Regulators session taking place this Thursday at 8:3010:30 am, where you will get to meet several members of my senior leadership team. They plan to share information on rotorcraft safety initiatives and entertain your questions. Lets keep the dialog going.

Thanks for inviting me; I very much look forward to continuing this dialogue and our work together.

Speech – Helicopter Safety Time to Think Outside the Box

Administrator Stephen Dickson
Anaheim, CA

Remarks As Delivered

Good morning, everyone.

By now, everyone is aware of the tragedy that happened Sunday morning, only 50 miles northwest of this convention center.

I speak for all of us at the FAA when I say that we are saddened by this accident and the loss of so many lives, and our hearts go out to the family and friends of those onboard.

It is much too early to speak intelligently about why this may have happened, but suffice it to say that the NTSB, FAA and others are already hard at work to discover the causes. Despite what the investigators ultimately determine, we in this room know that all too often, helicopter accidents and GA accidents, in general, turn out in hindsight to have been preventable.

I left Washington on Friday prepared to deliver a safety message here and to lead the charge for action on helicopter safety. The events of Sunday morning make that mission all the more urgent. If not now, then when. If not us, then who?

Though we meet here with heavy hearts, it is good to be among such an esteemed group of aviation professionals here today with a shared focus on aviation safety.

Of course, I recognize that the helicopter community deals with safety and operational threats that are much different from my experiences in all my years in fixed-wing fighter aircraft and commercial aviation. So I felt it was particularly important to come here in person today to see for myself the depth and breadth of your industry and to hear about your challenges and concerns.

Aside from a few pleasure rides in air tour helicopters, I do not have much personal experience in your operational world, but its clear to me from a professional perspective that rotary wing aviation is an essential element of our transportation system, particularly when it comes to helping people. How many of our citizens owe their lives to rescue helicopters, or the operators that spring into action on a moments notice to carry critically ill patients to the hospital?

These aircraft are extremely versatile with unique capabilities and handle a wide variety of operations 24/7/365.

We remember now that it is only a little more than 80 years since Igor Sikorsky hovered the worlds first practical helicopter in Stratford, Connecticut. Yet today vertical lift has become a mainstay in the American aviation landscape, and theres much more to come when you think about drones and urban air mobility.

While helicopters represent a relatively small portion of our general aviation fleetabout 6% their impact is significant and even disproportionate compared to other forms of aviationparticularly when you count the benefits to society from medivac, search and rescue, police, infrastructure inspection and air taxi operations, to name just a few.

Actually, one look in the exhibit hall or in the news, makes it clear that the notion of a rotorcraft as I just described earlierone rotor spinning above your headis sorely out of date. From relatively inexpensive quadcopters the size of a basketballto faster, quieter and more autonomous traditional helicopters and tiltrotors to automobile-sized electric flying taxis that are quickly jumping from the drawing boards to the test area, todays rotary wing aviation is quickly moving outside the box that Sikorsky first flew in.

Unmanned Aircraft Systems, known as UAS or drones, are now flying in the airspace that used to be largely the domain of helicopters. I dont have to tell you the growth has been exponential.

Weve been registering drones for a little more than four years, and weve already got more than 1.5 million on the books, with more than 400,000 listed for commercial use, and weve approved two Part 135 operators.

We have also approved 27 part 137 UAS operatorswhich you may know as crop dusters. Consider for reference, weve been registering aircraft for more than 90 years, and weve got just shy of 300,000 in the manned aircraft registry.

We are learning a great deal about the innovative ways that drones can help society and be operated in the NAS through our Integration Pilot Program. Our strategy of operations first, is allowing us to use the existing regulatory regime, which helps us ensure innovation can drive forward.

UPS and FedEx are actively participating in trials to speed up the delivery of small packages and working on type certificates for small autonomous drones. Innovators up in Alaska are looking to do the same with much larger vehicles.

Said another way, over the last 3 years, weve shifted our strategy from writing rules to getting machines in the air and flyingand taking lessons learned from the operations approval process to write better rules.

Our goal in the United States, in contrast to many areas of the world, is to integrate, rather than segregate, UAS operations into the NAS. At the moment I dont have to tell you that this strategy is nowhere more important than to the helicopter community, as in many respects the need for integration is felt more acutely in the airspace where you operate than it is in the airspace where we typically find fixed-wing operations.

Knowing the location of drones is a key requirement for accomplishing the vision. Thats why the FAA recently issued a long-awaited notice of proposed rulemaking to require drone operators to provide remote identification for their vehicles.

Weve received over 6000 comments so far and welcome the public input as it will help us craft a rule that meets the safety and security needs now and for the future.

Flying taxis are on the horizon and manufacturers are getting ready for testing. According to my UAS team, we are currently engaged with the builders of more than 15 electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft projects. At CES in Las Vegas earlier this month, we saw Uber and the Hyundai Motor Company unveil a full-scale aircraft concept in their partnership to create Uber Air Taxis, and shortly after, Toyota announced a hefty investment in flying taxi developer Joby Aviation.

Also in January, we saw North Americas first public demonstration of an autonomous two-seat flying taxian eHang EH216 taking flight in Raleigh, albeit with no passengers.

Of course, the FAA has to ensure that these new entrants are safe before they can take part in regular National Airspace System operations. Were using a crawl, walk, run approach as we mature the vehicle technologies and air traffic management procedures to do this, and at this point, Ill note that were still in the crawling phase for both, but we are making rapid progress.

A key question we get from new entrants is how safe is safe? Will the fatal accident risk we accept for rotorcraft operations today be acceptable for Uber riders tomorrow? Probably not.

Wethe FAA and industryhave some important work to do in the name of rotary wing safety right now. Sundays crash comes one month to the day after the loss of seven people on a Safari Helicopters air tour on Kauai on December 26th.

These are tragic stories, particularly when families on an adventure or a quick ride to an event become the unwitting victims of accidents that, far too often, are preventable. In the aftermath of any crash, the reputation of the entire helicopter community is questioned, and the public may question whether the benefits are worth the risks.

We know from the U.S. Helicopter Safety Teams latest numbers that the helicopter sector has a fatal accident rate of approximately 0.63 per 100,000 hours, based on a five-year moving average. Thats well below the overall general aviation rate of approximately 0.94, but its not enough.

Just like the broader GA sector, pilot error is the predominant factor in fatal accidents. In fact, even when there is a mechanical component failure that leads to a crash, we often find that the component failed, because the helicopter was being operated outside its limits or the maintenance instructions were not being followed.

A key challenge we all face is that place where we have the largest number of paying passengers experiencing fatalities in our airspaceair tour operations. Im here to tell you this needs to change. We need to find ways to move that part of the industry toward the level of safety achieved by the commercial airline sector.

The good news is that with certain targeted interventions, the fatal accident rate has continued to declineand well discuss some of those initiatives later. The bad newsor it should be bad news to all of usis that the rate is still too high, and making interventions more difficult is that many of the pilots and operators in the personal/private helicopter sector are difficult to reach.

While an accident rate of zero is the ultimate goal, our Part 121 commercial airline industry today is the closest we have come to that. In the past 10 years, there have been more than 90 million commercial flights in our NAS, carrying more than 7 billion passengers, with two fatalities.

Thats a safety record thats hard to get your mind around in any human endeavor, much less one where youre carrying people in highly advanced aerospace vehicles at more than 500 mph and miles above the earth.

Granted, helicopters fly lower and slower, but theres no need for your safety goals to be lower, and frankly, for the flying taxi model to succeed, riders will likely expect an airline-like assurance of a safe flight. And why shouldnt they?

As I said earlier, the long-term GA fatal accident rate, including helicopters, is declining but we cant be satisfied. Its our responsibility to ask ourselves the hard questions and determine what more we can do to enhance Helicopter safety.

Consider that the helicopter offshore industry has a fatal accident rate that is a factor of two below the combined rate for the sector. How are they doing it and what are their lessons learned?

Thats one of the reasons why I came here to Heli-Expo, to take stock of your industry, hear your concerns, and to get up to speed on the unique aspects of helicopter operations.

When it comes to rotorcraft, Im a neophyte, and Im all ears.

I do have plenty of experience and perspective to offer from the world of fixed-wing commercial aviation safety, as you probably know: twenty-seven years at Delta, the last 12 of which I spent as Senior VP of flight operations. I was responsible for the safety and operational performance of the companys global flight operations of more than a million flights a year on six continents, as well as pilot training, crew resources, crew scheduling and regulatory compliance.

The commercial airline industrys stellar safety record in the NAS over the past decade is a testament to the evolution and adoption of risk-based decision-making processes by government and industry.

This is happening in part through initiatives like the Commercial Aviation Safety Team, or CAST, and effective tools like Safety Management Systems, voluntary safety reporting programs, flight data monitoring and sharing through data initiatives like ASIAS.

But we always, always, always need to stay humble and vigilant. We all know in our business youre only as good as your last takeoff and your last landing, and the number of takeoffs and landings need to equal each other.

Theres too much at stake to wait until the next accident occurs to figure out how to operate more safely. We have to identify accident and incident precursors so we can take actions to prevent themand shared data allows us to do that.

Some of these processes obviously are applicable to the GA and helicopter communities, and some may not be. As you probably know, weve migrated the data-driven analysis model over to GA through the GA Joint Steering Committee and through other government-industry initiatives like the U.S. Helicopter Safety Team.

Business aviation and portions of the flight training community are also well on their way to implementing data gathering, analyzing and sharing to help them and the broader industry figure out how it is performing.

In 2013, the FAA started with two members of the business aviation community participating in the ASIAS program. Seven years later, we have 100.

Thats impressive, and its a success story for our industry. But we dont rest on our laurels, because there are thousands of flight departments, single-pilot, and owner-flown operators, both fixed-wing and rotary-wing, out there who could, at minimum, find real value in Flight Data Monitoring and pilot reports, even if its just to monitor their own operations.

Using Flight Data Monitoring as feedback into your training program is a good example of a safety management system process. Safety management also relies on having a Just Culture in place so that pilots and aviation workers feel empowered to report honest mistakes and issues without fear of retribution. That atmosphere gives workers the freedom to report and provide their management with data they can use to get a heads-up on what might be an accident in the making.

Without that information, all bets are off. One year ago, tomorrow, a pilot and two air crewmembers were killed when their Bell 407, on a Part 135 flight, slammed into terrain near Zaleski, Ohio, while en route to a hospital for a patient pickup.

While the NTSB has not yet issued its conclusions, we know from the operational and human factors factual report, which was released in September, that there were issues with safety culture in that flight department.

A healthy safety culture requires some basic elements:

The organization must encourage employees to voluntarily report issues without the threat of retribution. It has to have data analysis capability to make sense of the flight data and safety reports. It needs a method of tracking and trending issues and the effects of corrective actions, and it must provide feedback to let employees know what became of their reports.

The factual material from this accident provides some good examples of what an unhealthy safety culture can look like. For example, numerous pilots and medical crew told investigators about incidents where they received, or they witnessed, pilots being reprimanded or challenged for declining flights. One pilot said he was not aware of a way to report safety concerns without getting himself in trouble.

The NTSB noted that while personnel were aware of the ways to report concerns, a number of them were uncomfortable voicing concerns due to fear of reprimand by management and the lack of previous management action on voiced safety concerns.

You can imagine how the inability to speak out might lead a pilot to take a mission when others would not. In fact, the accident flight had been rejected by two other providers. Making matters worse, the operator had stated in written materials to hospitals that they would take flights when other operators turned them down due to weather.

This accident is, unfortunately, not an isolated case of a safety culture vacuum when it comes to the helicopter and overall GA sector.

We, at the FAA, in concert with youindustryare working to improve helicopter safety on multiple frontsincluding information sharing, education about risk management and safety management systems, safety-boosting technology, and enhanced training, among othersand were always open to new ideas about how we can be more effective.

Adopting best practices is certainly a path to reducing risks. A great way to share your experiences and learn about the best practices of others is to participate in our new helicopter InfoShare program, which had its first meeting in October. Im told a key topic of discussion at the meeting was the importance of SMS, and how it can truly help helicopter operators reduce their risks. Another avenue for sharing best practices for oil and gas industry rotary-wing operators is through the Helicopter Safety Advisory Council, which has developed recommended practices that are easily adaptable to other helicopter sectors.

And have you heard of the USHSTs Safety Workshop in a Box? This is an education program where the FAAs Safety Team, or FAAST Team, along with industry safety experts, take their safety message directly to helicopter pilots.

Its a deep dive on one specific accident that educates pilots on decision-making. We tested the idea in Phoenix last year and, this year, will be taking it on the road to 10 cities and adding a second accident scenario.

The FAA is also working to bolster training related to loss-of-control awareness, pilot competency, and technical support.

In the technology area, were doing research with enhanced vision technologies to help pilots see in reduced visibilities and stability augmentation systems to make it easier to fly the machine when times are tough. Were also looking into algorithms that will make simulators accurate through a certain range outside the typical flight envelope, so that pilots can have more realistic training opportunities.

Were also working with industry to develop new helicopter Airman Certification Standards to replace the current practical test standards. The new standards will include risk management elements in all areas of operation and tasks to help develop better-prepared and safer helicopter pilots.

These efforts are a good start, but as I said earlier, were always in search of thinking that is outside the box on how we can address the accident rate.

We are serious about getting on top of the safety challenges we face in the helicopter air tour industry.

And frankly as many of you may know there is a lot of energy in Congress right now as it relates to both safety and noise concerns associated with helicopter air tours; if there isn’t meaningful action on both of these fronts very soon, I suspect the path forward will be dictated to this industry.

Our safety experts have begun developing an action plan to address the issues, and we look forward to sharing the details with our partners and stakeholders in the near future. Upon sharing this plan, we hope to receive your valuable input and support.

Before I close, I want to flag another issue we, and Im sure many of the operators in this room, are focused on helicopter noise. There is growing concern in many parts of this country about the impact of helicopter noise on communities.

This is part of a larger challenge that has been developing across the country with respect to aviation noise both around airports and often associated with air tours. And there are ongoing collaborative efforts to address noise. For example, FAA is engaged with HAIs Fly Neighborly Committee to promote community friendly flying and to educate operators on community engagement best practices.

However, without more engagement and action by the rotorwing sector, I suspect noise concerns will increasingly impact not just todays operations but our ability to integrate new users UAS and urban air mobility into the NAS.

I would urge operators to be much more proactive in their engagement with communities on noise issues and try to find constructive approaches to manage these challenges.

Thanks again for your attention. I look forward to learning more about this fascinating side of our industry and personally getting involved in making vertical flight as safe as possibleas safe as the public expects it to be. I hope to see many of you in the near future as we explore new ways to improve general aviation and helicopter safety. Together, we can do itwe must do it!

I do want to encourage you to attend the FAA: Meet the Regulators session taking place this Thursday at 8:3010:30 am, where you will get to meet several members of my senior leadership team. They plan to share information on rotorcraft safety initiatives and entertain your questions. Lets keep the dialog going.

Thanks for inviting me; I very much look forward to continuing this dialogue and our work together.