As Congress begins to build its FAA reauthorization bill, “we’ve got a lot of work to do," particularly in areas of rulemaking, agency staff training, and international validations, General Aviation Manufacturers Association president and CEO Pete Bunce told lawmakers Tuesday.
Testifying before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee during its first hearing in 2023 on FAA reauthorization, Bunce warned of key safety rules that have been languishing in the agency as the International Civil Aviation Organization and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency move forward on initiatives. He pointed to the safety management system (SMS) notice of proposed rulemaking that came out almost a decade after an aviation rulemaking committee recommended it in 2014.
He further cited flocking bird testing requirements that were recommended, and still not enacted, following the so-called Miracle on the Hudson. “These examples go on and on,” he said, noting that the large rules sit at FAA legal or at the “black hole" in the Department of Transportation.
He also reiterated concern that the turnover at FAA—40 percent of certification engineers have less than two years of experience—and said that training them has been hindered because of the dispersed workforce in wake of the pandemic. He said manufacturers are willing to step in and help with training. Bunce further said that the FAA needs better metrics to ensure international validation processes are improved.
NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen, also testifying, added that the upcoming reauthorization bill provides an opportunity to remain the best and avoid complacency in aviation safety. To accomplish this, Bolen stressed the importance of getting a bill done in a timely fashion. Having a series of stopgap measures, as has been the case in the past, doesn’t help.
He further urged the committee to pass a measure to keep the FAA operating and avert government shutdowns also as happened in the past. He noted that the unobligated balance of the aviation trust fund can avoid that. Bolen recommended several other areas of focus for Congress, from encouraging innovation and digitization, as well as moving on recommendations on the youth and women in aviation task forces.
Bolen also stressed the importance of protecting business aviation privacy, alternative means of compliance for accommodating 5G, overall collaboration, and an effective SMS regulation. He praised the merits of SMS as a “remarkable safety tool” but said, “It has to be done right, you can’t use a saw when you can use a scalpel.”