Aug. 4, 2020

FAA Administrator Steve Dickson joined NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen Aug. 4 for a first-ever Virtual Business Aviation Town Hall, in which he took questions from industry stakeholders and offered his perspectives on a variety of topics.

The discussion began with an overview of the agency’s response to the COVID-19 crisis. Bolen thanked Dickson for the agency’s work on extensions to general aviation pilot medicals and other requirements granted under Special Federal Aviation Regulation (SFAR) 118 in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

However, Bolen also emphasized that with those exemptions currently set to expire Sept. 30, “people with expirations in October, November [and] December are worried.” Dickson replied the agency continues to review the situation as the industry struggles with the pandemic.

“We’re looking at each [exemption] very carefully,” he said. “As it makes sense, we’ll continue to [issue] extensions and do them with enough predictability so that our stakeholders can plan their operations.”

However, “we can only push things so far,” he continued. “In most cases, we have introduced some sort of mitigating factor that would enable an extension and make it defensible, and not a degradation in safety.”

The two leaders also discussed the FAA’s recent notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) for a new Pilot Records Database that would subject many business aviation operators to new reporting requirements not previously applied to non-commercial operations. Bolen noted the NPRM has “generated hundreds of comments” from concerned industry stakeholders. Read NBAA’s comments to the FAA on the NPRM.

“I certainly understand that it’s not a one size fits all here,” Dickson responded. “We have to take a look at the burden on different operators … I will certainly commit to you that we will take all [comments] into consideration as we work toward having a final rule out there.”

Other audience questions concerned emerging technologies ranging from commercial space operations to urban air mobility vehicles and supersonic aircraft. Dickson emphasized the agency is continuing to adapt to these and other disruptive technologies.

“Aviation is about connecting people and helping us to understand each other,” he said. “Disruptions do create opportunities. Those who can adapt will be successful, and we certainly want to adapt.”

Noting Dickson’s extensive aviation background and longtime work on a variety of initiatives important to both commercial and business aviation, Bolen said Dickson is “the right person at the right time” to confront these and other challenges. Dickson accepted the compliment with one caveat.

“I recognized a lot of things that I knew about aviation when I came on board with the agency, but there’s a lot that I don’t know,” he said. “I’m learning from you [Ed], folks at the agency and other stakeholders all the time.”