FAA ready for 2015
The Federal Aviation Administration’s enduring mission is to ensure that the United States has the safest, most efficient aerospace system in the world. In 2014, we’ve taken many steps to accomplish this result. I’d like to highlight three particular efforts.
First, the FAA issued a rule that requires helicopter operators, including air ambulances, to have stricter flight rules and procedures, improved communications, training, and additional on-board safety equipment. This rule will help reduce safety risk involved in helicopter operations and help pilots make good safety decisions through the use of better training, procedures, and equipment. The rule represents the most significant improvements to helicopter safety in decades and responds to government and industry concerns over continued risk in helicopter operations.
Second, the FAA continues to modernize the airspace system by implementing NextGen – our major initiative to make flying more efficient and greener, while ensuring that all safety needs are met. NextGen includes our Metroplex initiative, an effort to reduce air traffic congestion in the nation’s busiest metropolitan areas. As part of our Metroplex initiative, we implemented scores of new satellite-based air traffic procedures in several major cities, including Houston, North Texas and Washington D.C. These procedures are helping to increase on-time arrival, and reduce fuel consumption and emissions, results that are benefiting the airlines, the passenger, and the environment. For instance, in the North Texas area, we implemented 80 new satellite-based air traffic procedures. We project that airspace users will save 4.1 million gallons of fuel each year, resulting in a savings of 41,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions and $10.3 million dollars.
Third, the FAA continues to make strides toward safely integrating unmanned aircraft into the nation’s airspace system. Unmanned aircraft are a burgeoning technology, and the application of the technology is limited only by our imagination. The FAA has chosen six unmanned aircraft test sites that are now operational. The research conducted at these sites will help inform the FAA as we move forward with integration. In addition, the FAA has begun a process for approving commercial unmanned aircraft operations in low-risk situations such as moviemaking, agricultural research and utility surveying. Unmanned aircraft often provides a safer alternative to work that can be very high risk in manned aircraft. The agency hopes to issue a rule for public comment very soon on small unmanned aircraft.
These three accomplishments are just a few of the many projects we’ve been focused on in 2014. In the coming year, we look forward to continuing these efforts to ensure the safety and efficiency of aviation for our nation.