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