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EAA AirVenture Oshkosh RSS FeedFAA administrator talks avgas and more at public session
By James Wynbrandt

Paul Poberezny (left) with FAA chief Randy Babbitt. Photo by Hilary Lawrence

Strong support for the continued availability of avgas, a re-emphasis on professionalism among general-aviation (GA) pilots, and a surprise visit by Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood marked the annual Meet the Administrator session with FAA chief Randy Babbitt at AirVenture on Thursday.

"It's always a great thrill for me" to be at AirVenture, Babbitt, a lifelong pilot said, noting that he had attended the fly-in before becoming FAA administrator.

"This is aviation. This is the place for pilots to get together, to see new inventions and swap hangar talk. I look forward to coming here, as administrator or not."

On the subject of the availability of avgas or an equivalent fuel, an issue of increased concern due to efforts to eliminate leaded fuels, Babbitt said: "I'm keenly aware of the focus this community has on avgas.

"I assure you we have a good relationship with the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). There is a very cooperative dialog. It's important to note they're just starting the process of learning; they're now soliciting an advance notice of comments."

Babbitt said the FAA and industry were in agreement on the issue, as evidenced by the meeting of the General Aviation Avgas Coalition

Working Group at AirVenture the previous day, involving NBAA, AOPA, EAA, GAMA, and aviation and industry stakeholders.
"We have a commitment to work together so there will not be any interruption of avgas," Babbitt said.

Safety and professionalism, V.2010
Babbitt also returned to the theme of professionalism among GA pilots he raised during his appearance at AirVenture last year.
"Everyone has answered the call to be more professional, and the numbers prove that," he said, citing statistics that showed fatal accidents were down 13 percent in 2010 over the equivalent period last year.

"That's not good enough," he said.

"For us to solve the problem, we need to understand where these accidents are coming from."

Among the accident causes Babbitt then citied: accidents in amateur-built aircraft, often involving high-performance aircraft the pilot was not properly trained to fly; flying VFR at night without proper preparations; and CFIT (controlled flight into terrain) accidents.

"We should all ask ourselves, every single flight, am I prepared today?" Babbitt advised, strongly advocating recurrent training for GA pilots.

"Commercial pilots have to do it. Why shouldn't you get recurrent training? You don't have to be a professional pilot, having someone paying you to fly airplanes, for you to be professional."

Meet the boss's boss
Midway through his prepared remarks Babbitt introduced a special guest, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood.

"We could not be more pleased to be here at Oshkosh for our first visit as Secretary of Transportation," LaHood said after his introduction, "to give you a lot of encouragement to continue to promote aviation and general aviation."

"I wanted to be here to support all of you and support general aviation and tell you we at DOT care about what you do, about the Oshkosh event, about the week [of AirVenture], that general aviation is a critical, absolutely important part of the aviation system in this country and around the world," he continued to applause.

LaHood noted that he represented Central Illinois in Congress for 14 years, and that the region had a strong general aviation community.

"I know how important what you all do is, and we will continue to make sure your flag of honor, your badge of honor flies very high at the Department of Transportation."

Future flying, TTF…
Upon retaking the podium, Babbitt addressed NextGen, whose rules require GA aircraft to be equipped with ADS-B-out capability by 2020.
"I think we should all appreciate we're going into the digital age," he said.

"How we handle [aircraft] surveillance and communication will change, and will change for the better. Everybody's going to have access to a lot more airports and [instrument] approaches that will give you horizontal and vertical information" at airports that currently have non-precision or no instrument approach procedures, among other benefits.

In the Q&A session that followed Babbitt's prepared remarks, questions ranged from local issues, such as expansion of protected airspace in southern California and recurrent checkrides for Part 135 charter operators outside of the United States, to the "through the fence" (TTF) operations at airports that have allowed access from adjacent properties, such as residential developments. At last year's session Babbitt said the agency, which had recently announced opposition to these arrangements, would re-examine the issue. When questioned this year he noted that FAA teams had visited 75 airports that have such agreements.

"The bottom line is, we're taking comments," Babbitt said. "We'll digest those comments, and that rule should be out by the end of summer."

FUTURE AIRVENTURE DATES: 2014: July 28-Aug. 3; 2015: July 20-26; 2016: July 25-31; 2017: July 24-30
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