2013 Newsmakers

Two thousand thirteen was another year during which aviation was deprived of seeing the Great Recession recede in the rear-view mirror, but there were bright spots. Deliveries and sales of top-of-the-line large-cabin jets each with price tags well on their way to nine figures continued strongly while smaller segments struggled. And manufacturers with the convictions and the resources were not deterred from forging ahead with plans to develop new flying machines.

New FAA Boss
Encounters Turbulence

Michael Huerta, acting FAA Administrator since December 2011, was sworn into the top job at the agency last January by then-Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood during a luncheon meeting of the venerable Washington Aero Club. Almost immediately, he flew into a perfect storm.

With all due acknowledgment to the way government operates, Huerta’s term has been somewhat schizophrenic. Right out of the box, he encountered the battery troubles on Boeing’s newly operational 787 Dreamliner. The fledgling fleet was grounded for several weeks before Boeing engineered and the FAA approved a fix.

In his first address after strapping into (as opposed to sitting in) the left seat at the FAA, Huerta told the group that the best way to enhance safety is to keep the lines of communication open between business and government.

But it fell to Huerta and LaHood to announce in February that, to conform with government-wide sequestration, the FAA was making plans to reduce its expenditures by approximately $600 million for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2013. They said the agency was considering furloughing the vast majority of its 47,000 employees for approximately one day per pay period, closing more than 100 air traffic control facilities, eliminating the overnight shift at more than 60 locations and reducing preventive maintenance and support for all ATC equipment.

In May, meanwhile, Huerta met with leaders of the general aviation community to agree on actions to enhance GA safety and reduce the segment’s accident toll. But it took action by Congress to authorize the FAA to transfer funds within the agency’s budget to prevent crippling the ATC system immediately before the lawmakers’ Easter recess.

Over the summer, the FAA put the airshow circuit on notice that the sequestration spelled the end of ATC services at no charge. Then, on October 1, ongoing budget squabbles triggered a 16-day government shutdown. While ATC functions were not affected, manufacturing and modernization efforts stopped, as did aircraft registrations and aeromedical case reviews.

At the end of last year, many questions affecting general aviation, and business aviation in particular, remained. The agreement to end the government shutdown on October 16 ran only until the end of 2013, and at press time the FAA, along with most of the federal government, continues to operate under a Continuing Resolution.