Randy Babbitt meets FAA goals with technology

Thursday - 9/16/2010, 9:31am EDT

Randy Babbitt, Administrator, FAA

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By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor
FederalNewsRadio.com

It took longer than planned, about 15 months, but the Federal Aviation Administration has overhauled pilot work rules to reflect current scientific understanding of how fatigue impacts human performance. At the same time, the FAA continues the transition to the NextGen air transportation system, and working with Customs and Border Protection on certification for drone flights along the Southwest border.

Randy Babbitt, Administrator at the FAA, explained to Federal News Radio, technology is making it all possible.

He spoke with the Federal Drive about progress towards meeting his agency's goals.

Here are three of the topics discussed and some of his comments.

Pilot Work Rules - "I really have to applaud the way these rules were developed," said Babbitt. "Through collaboration and understanding, together they (the Aviation Rule Making Committee and teams representing various interests) allowed science to split any logjams they had, and that's the way it should work. They truly incorporate science and the recognition of what a work unit is."

Drones - Predator Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) flights along the Southwest Border, said Babbitt, are "in the same commercial space, or the potential for them to be in the same commercial airspace exists, and therefore they have to be regulated." Babbit said the U.S. Forrest Service uses the same drones. "Our challenge is make certain that they don't compromise any safety in the national air space system and that they have the same high standards of separation, avoidance and control that we require in manned vehicles."

NextGen - Babbitt said, overall, the program is "making good progress, meeting our targets, our milestones." "We have rolled out some very progressive new technology in a few areas and we're completely operational in Philadelphia, Louisville..." Most significant, said the administrator, "we now have ADS-B coverage and where this NextGen coverage and this airborne transmission, the Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast, which is the ADS-B - it allows the aircraft to use satellite signals to define it's position and then transmit that. And it can be read not only by the controller but by other aircraft, giving everyone the same situational awareness." Babbitt said the system is particularly important in the Gulf because there's no radar coverage in the area. Ten thousand people a day are being transported by helicopters on and off rigs. "That's a huge step for us," said Babbitt.

To listen to the entire interview with Administrator Babbitt, click on the audio player at the top of the page.