Secretary Anthony Foxx
The Aero Club
Washington, DC • February 25, 2014
Remarks as prepared for delivery
Thank you, Pete Dumont for the introduction – and thanks, everyone, for the warm welcome to the Aero Club.
It’s an honor to be here with all of you. And it’s amazing to me that this club is almost as old as aviation itself – although I have to imagine your meetings were a bit different back when you were founded in 1909.
And one thing that’s certainly changed since then is how well our government understands how much this industry – the aviation industry – matters.
In the twenties, White House advisors were pressuring Calvin Coolidge to increase spending on military aviation. And he responded like some parents do when their kids ask for the same Christmas presents.
“Why can’t we just buy one plane,” Coolidge wondered, “and have all the pilots take turns.”
I should point out here that not once in my life did I ever vote for Calvin Coolidge.
Nor did I donate a single Buffalo nickel to his campaign.
Today, I’m happy to say that our commitment to aviation is a bit stronger than it was back when Coolidge was in office.
Both the President – and all of us at DOT – recognize what a crucial role you play in keeping Americans – and the American economy – moving. Civil aviation contributes $1.3 trillion to our country’s economic activity; the industry supports more jobs than exist in the whole state of New York and is our nation’s top net exporter.
We value these things at DOT. In fact, many of our top priorities reflect the top concerns you have as an industry.
So, this afternoon, I want to talk about what those priorities are… how we’re working to improve aviation in this country… and why we need you to work with us, too.
Let’s talk about funding first.
With the Highway Trust Fund on track to bounce checks as soon as August, you‘ve probably read in the papers that DOT is focused on passing a surface funding bill. And it’s true; we are focused on surface reauthorization. But that doesn’t mean we’ve forgotten about funding for aviation. Far from it.
In December, as you know, Congress passed a compromise bill that provided federal agencies, including the FAA, with stable funding for two years.
But we’re still facing an infrastructure deficit in this country – particularly when it comes to aviation. The FAA is still operating at historically low funding levels. And this comes at a time when we predict that the use of our airplanes and airports will only rise.
According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, congestion and delays at airports will cost the economy $63 billion per year by 2040.
Just to give you some points of comparison: that’s a little less than DOT’s entire annual budget; and it’s about three times more than the profits that the global airline industry is expected to take in this year.
All of this is why we’ll be working with Congress, in advance of next year, to make sure that, at the very least, stable funding continues.
But at a time like this – when needs are great, and budgets are tight – we can’t just fight for better funding; we have to think of better ways of spending it. We have to be efficient.
And when it comes to aviation, we’re doing that in a number of ways – for example, with our Part 23 rulemaking project, which will streamline the certification process for manufacturers of small aircraft.
But, as all of you know, there’s no project in aviation with the potential to improve efficiency more than NextGen.
And many airlines are already starting to see the benefits.
Here’s an example:
A few months ago, I had the chance to visit Memphis International Airport in Tennessee.
In 2012, we were able to revise what are called “wake turbulence separation standards” in Memphis.
Essentially, that meant aircraft were able to safely land and depart – one behind another – slightly closer than before.
And because less time waiting on the runway means less fuel burned, one of the carriers at Memphis, FedEx, is now saving $1.8 million on fuel every month.
But it’s not just happening in Memphis. At other airports, like Louisville, we’ve made the same sorts of improvements – and they’re helping other carriers, like UPS, save fuel and money, too.
All across the country, NextGen is ensuring more planes take off every hour, saving not just money for airlines – but time for passengers.
Over the course of a year, passengers at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta were able to save 11,000 hours of waiting on the runway. Which is roughly the time from now until Memorial Day… in 2015.
But I should also add here: While we’re saving time – and cutting costs – that doesn’t mean we’re cutting corners. Or that you are either.
As an aviation community, we’ve driven down the rate of commercial airline accidents to their lowest levels in recent memory.
And that’s a bar we want to raise even higher.
That’s why we’re streamlining the approval process for installing “angle of attack” indicators, which help prevent pilots of small planes from stalling.
And it’s why we’re using the wealth of safety data now available so that we can analyze trends and precursors to accidents. We’re getting safety data from many sources, including through the exchanges with the aviation industry.
And I want to thank you for that – and ask you all to keep working with us, and sharing that data so we can keep our skies safe.
So let me close on that note – the note of collaboration
There may be actual rocket scientists in this room. But it doesn’t take one to realize that none of this – whether it’s securing funding, or being more efficient, or preventing accidents – can be done by just the private sector or the public alone.
What we need is what we’ve always had: partnership.
In aviation, as much or more than in any other industry, it’s been the collaboration of both business and government – of both your industry and our agency – that has let us break barriers, including the sound barrier.
And that, very much, is what still need today.
Thank you all so much.
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