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EAA, FAA Gather in Oshkosh

Annual Recreational Aviation Summit under way

By David Sakrison, EAA Government Affairs Reporter

Sullenberger and Skiles
EAA’s John Hopkins (far right) provides details of  EAA’s replica 1909 Bleriot XI project to FAA’s John Allen, Director of Flight Standards, Dorenda Baker, Director of Aircraft Certification, and Kim Smith, Manager of the Small Airplane Directorate.

March 9, 2010A tradition that leads to solutions kicked off on Monday as the two-day EAA/FAA Winter Recreational Aviation Summit opened in Oshkosh. Each year, key FAA managers  visit EAA Headquarters to work with EAA staff and division heads to address challenges and opportunities facing general aviation, and recreational aviation in particular. The issues and “action items” identified at the annual Summit are then addressed in detail during the remainder of the year by working groups that include EAA staff, FAA officials, industry representatives, and others.

“The Summit is not about nuts and bolts,” said Earl Lawrence, EAA’s vice president for government and industry relations. “Here we aim to set the vision, direction, action items, and goal posts for changes that will make recreation aviation safer and more accessible.”

In its activities, programs, government advocacy, EAA is placing strong emphasis on reducing the barriers to participation in recreational aviation. Lawrence explained, “We firmly believe that regulations should be facilitators, not barriers, for participation.” The Winter Summit is a brief but important part of EAA’s year-round government advocacy. Those efforts give EAA members a strong voice on regulatory issues.

John Allen, FAA director of Flight Standards, told the EAA staff, “We have a deep desire to double our efforts on behalf of general aviation.” Allen reported that Flight Standards is in the process of developing a new mission statement, “to assure safety while enabling the adventure, commerce, and service of aviation.”

 As the Summit opened, EAA Founder Paul Poberezny welcomed attendees by mentioning the history of the EAA and FAA relationship.
“Over the years,” he said, “when I had ideas, I went to Washington, found the right people at the FAA, and asked them, ‘What do you think?’ That approach developed into a good working relationship that continues to this day.”

The success of that relationship owes much to EAA members, who support EAA’s uniquely effective advocacy through their membership dues.  EAA’s 160,000-plus members dedicated to recreational aviation give the organization a deep knowledge base and unequalled credibility.
 Issues discussed on day one involved pilot testing and certification, especially written testing for airmen and proposed new standards for Air Transport Pilot (ATP) certification. Proposed changes in FAA regulations could create more barriers for new pilots, said Jason Blair, chairman of the National Association of Flight Instructors.

“In the near future, we’re looking at a worldwide shortage of 300,000 [professional] pilots,” Blair said.

Allen told Blair that retooling pilot training will be a long-term process, but it’s time to get started in a process that will include NAFI.

“I’d like to revamp the whole pilot training regimen and find a new approach that would instill basic airmanship qualities and confidence,” said Allen, who also noted needs for pilot training and certification for remotely piloted aircraft.

“We need to create a cadre of new skilled pilots and we need to make aviation careers more inviting.”

Responding to questions about written airman testing, FAA’s Deputy Division Manager, Regulatory Support Debra Entricken, noted that Congressional interest in the FAA’s computerized testing designees caused the FAA’s Regulatory Support Division to review those designees and the airman testing process. As a result of that review, the division is improving knowledge tests to test for comprehension versus memory skills, to improve test security, and to improve the test delivery process.

“This is definitely on the front burner in my [FAA] division,” Entricken said. “We’re two and a half years into the process and should have it completed in another two to three years.”

Lawrence suggested that any new testing process should take into account the applicant’s aviation goals.

“Not everyone is on an ATP track,” he said. “We want to make sure that the written test serves the safety objective without creating greater barriers to participation for recreational pilots.”

 The Summit’s second day agenda includes discussion on amateur-built and LSA accidents and safety; sport pilot rules; and additional issues within Warbirds, aerobatics, and vintage aircraft.

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