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EAA AirVenture Oshkosh RSS FeedField approvals a big question
By Randy Dufault, EAA AirVenture Today

July 31, 2009 - Oshkosh, Wisconsin  - In a long-standing tradition at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, newly confirmed FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt took questions from the audience during the Meet the Administrator forum session Thursday morning. 

Field approval of an aircraft modification, often the only option for an owner to keep an airplane flying, was a hot topic during the session. 

The first question regarding the topic centered on whether the announced intention of past administrations to move the process to designated airworthiness representatives (DARs) and away from FAA inspectors was still a priority. 

Babbitt confessed to not having a solid understanding of the issue yet and turned to Carol Giles, FAA manager for the Aircraft Maintenance Division. 

“The project to move field approvals to the DARs is being finalized right now,” Giles said. “The proposed rule should be on the street by September.” 

Giles urged everyone to add their thoughts as soon as the comment period opens. 

Another questioner on the topic indicated frustration with the FAA. He indicated that after receiving two field approvals for a Cessna 172 wingtip, a third was rejected for the exact same repair. He also experienced up to a six-month wait for other approvals. The question was whether the FAA truly wants to work with the general aviation (GA) community. 

Babbitt responded to this question. 

“I’m looking through a windshield, not through a rear-view mirror,” he said. “I don’t look backwards.” 

Babbitt indicated a standardization initiative is underway and that anyone should feel free to contact the FAA about issues like the questioner’s.

“The FAA wants to work with you…I welcome your input,” Babbitt said.

Two questions centered on the seemingly constant issue of medical certification for private pilots. The first was an obviously frustrated pilot whose annual special issuance third-class medical renewal had been in process for five months.

Babbitt turned the question over to Federal Air Surgeon Dr. Frederick Tilton.

Tilton first apologized for the delay and indicated he did not know the details of the case. He did refer the questioner, and anyone else with medical- related questions, to the doctors stationed in the FAA building here at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh. They have the ability to look at FAA records of individual cases and should be able to say when the process will be complete.

The other medical questioner wondered whether the third-class medical was any longer necessary.

“That is an interesting question,” Babbitt responded. “But let’s put that in the context of a pilot’s license. A private pilot’s license has privileges, and it has requirements.

“This is a risk-based business…we don’t know how that level of risk would change if we eliminated that requirement.

“Remember we are carrying other people.”

A likely anticipated question about the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and its treatment of GA brought cheers from the audience.

Babbitt’s initial response also brought cheers.

“I’ll just call the President and take the TSA back,” he mused.

Babbitt went on to say that he intends to work directly with the TSA on GA issues, but at this time the TSA does not have a confirmed administrator.

EAA Chairman and President Tom Poberezny also chimed in on the issue.

“Many died to make this country free,” Poberezny said to Babbitt. “We want a safe country, but also one that is free.”

Another issue popular with the audience was about recent FAA moves to restrict so-called through-the-fence access to publicly-funded airports.

Babbitt indicated that in the few days he has been administrator he has received quite an education on the issue.

A member of the FAA airports staff continued with the response indicating that the FAA had, in fact, received a letter from the AOPA regarding the issue. He indicated the FAA has a long-standing policy opposing through-the-fence operations, but individual situations are handled on a case-by-case basis.

Poberezny urged Babbitt to address the issue soon.

Responding to a question on the possibility of losing more airspace to unmanned aircraft systems, Babbitt indicated efforts are underway to ensure that the technology, procedures, and regulations will not cause that to happen.

Poberezny closed the session by thanking Babbitt and indicating he is looking forward to working with him.

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