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Aero Club Luncheon

Secretary LaHood

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery

Aero Club Luncheon
Washington, DC
Wednesday January 23, 2013

Hello everyone. Thank you, David (Castelveter), for your introduction. I wish you good luck as the new President of the Aero Club.

And thank you to Bob Bergman for your outstanding advocacy on behalf of the aviation industry and the flying public.

As most of you know, Michael Huerta has been a tremendous leader at FAA—serving as both Acting Administrator and Deputy Administrator.  And today, I’m proud to celebrate his continued leadership with all of you. 

…SWEARING IN…

Administrator Huerta will speak about his plans for the FAA shortly, but first, I’d like to share an update.

I often tell people that America has the best—and the safest—aviation system in the world. We owe this success not just to the hardworking folks at the FAA, but to all of you and our partners throughout aviation.

Over the last four years you have all heard me say repeatedly that the safety of the traveling public is our number one priority at DOT

So, before I go any further, I want to address recent developments with the Boeing 787 aircraft.

As I’ve said before, I have confidence in Boeing’s ability to create a safe aircraft.

At DOT, our job is to make sure every aspect of an aircraft meets the highest possible safety standards.

We need to get to the bottom of the recent issues with the batteries in the 787 and ensure their safety before these aircraft can be put back into service.

We are working diligently with Boeing to figure out the problem and to find a solution.  Our goal is to get this done as quickly as possible, but we must be confident that the problems are corrected before we can move forward.

Our job at DOT is to ensure the safety of the flying public, and that’s exactly what we’re doing.

As I said earlier, America has the best aviation system in the world.

And over the last four years, we’ve made great progress—ensuring safety, moving forward with NextGen, and expanding opportunities for the industry.

Today the American aviation industry is strong, and it’s getting stronger. More people are flying, and more cargo is being shipped around the world.

American aviation is better positioned to take on global competitors, support economic growth, and keep America moving.

This is a remarkable turnaround from where the industry was a few years ago.

In 2008, U.S. airlines were in the red. Today, they’re making money.

This progress is in large part a result of the people in this room. And I thank you for doing your part.

The future looks bright—opportunities for American aviation are growing.

At the Department of Transportation, we’ve worked hard to open up new markets abroad for U.S. carriers and consumers. I’m proud to report that we have increased the number of U.S. Open Skies partners from 94 to 109 over the last four years.

These new agreements have included the second-stage Open-Skies Plus Agreement with the European Union as well as new Open Skies agreements with Japan and Brazil. 

This is great news. Our success at opening new markets around the globe has generated jobs and economic growth here at home while also creating more travel options for consumers. 

When the airlines do well, we all benefit.

The people who work in the industry have more secure jobs.

And the industry is better able to invest in the future—buying new planes and working to improve the flying experience for travelers. 

All of this means we are better prepared to compete with the rest of the world.

At DOT, we’ve taken our commitment to aviation seriously.

In 2010, I pulled together people from across the industry—air carriers, manufacturers, airports, labor, consumers, academia and the financial sector—to form the Future of Aviation Advisory Committee.

The FAAC took a hard look at the industry and worked together to identify what steps needed to be taken to ensure a strong future for the American aviation industry.

The FAAC’s recommendations covered five of the major challenges facing aviation: safety, finance, workforce development, the environment, and competition.

I’m proud to tell you we’ve made great progress in each of these areas.

One of the key initiatives the FAAC looked at was NextGen.

The FAAC emphasized the importance of the benefits of NextGen—and it helped us to make this critical project a national priority.

And today we are seeing the benefits of NextGen on the ground and in the skies.

NextGen is happening, and it’s happening now.

As part of our Metroplex initiative, flights approaching the Washington DC area started using satellite routes in August and immediately began saving fuel and emissions. The new routes will save $2.3 million in fuel costs in the first year of operation.

Today our new air traffic management system is used by air traffic controllers in more than 50 percent of the country. Four years ago, we had a lot of work ahead of us to make this happen—but now it’s a reality.

And today, we have made significant progress installing the ground based infrastructure that is critical to NextGen.

By the end of this year, we plan to have more than 90 percent of the ground radio stations in place that will receive satellite information. This will improve the safety and efficiency of how we control aircraft.

We have added thousands of satellite procedures that make flying more predictable and precise.  We have also shortened the routes in and out of our airports. And we’ve worked to get planes on and off the ground more efficiently. 

In Atlanta for example, we improved operations by creating 16 new satellite-based departures. This means less time spent on the ground waiting to take off and a savings of $35 million in fuel costs per year for industry.

The bottom line is that we are leveraging the benefits of the latest technology to move our aviation system forward: We’re improving capacity, ensuring safety, and enhancing predictability.

Over the last four years, we’ve also worked very hard to protect the traveling public—whether they are riding a bus across town or flying across the country.

Consumer protections are not just a priority for DOT—they are a priority for President Obama.

I know we’ve haven’t always seen eye to eye on this, but I appreciate the carriers who have worked with us. And I think we can all appreciate the benefits of passenger protections.

Today, we have greater transparency when it comes to ticket pricing; passengers know what they are paying for prior to travel.

Long tarmac delays are largely a thing of the past.

And passengers with disabilities are more likely to be treated fairly and in compliance with our rules.

All of this is good for consumers. And you know better than me that happy customers are good for business.

As we look ahead to the future, challenges remain.

We are all committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

But as you all know, the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) has been a cloud hanging over our relationship with Europe as well as EU Aviation relations with the rest of the world. 

For the last two years, we have strongly objected on legal and policy grounds to the EU’s application of the ETS on our airlines. 

As you know, President Obama signed into law, the EU Emissions Trading Scheme Prohibition Act, which gives DOT the power to prohibit U.S. air carriers from participating in the ETS. 

All of us have worked hard on this—and thanks to many of you—we have avoided the negative impacts that a confrontation over ETS would have had for American aviation companies, workers, and consumers.  

On November 12, the European Union announced that they would “stop the clock” for one year on the implementation of the ETS as it pertains to international aviation—allowing global efforts to reduce aviation emissions to continue. 

It is my hope that we will continue to make progress on aviation emissions and that the EU will permanently suspend ETS as it pertains to international aviation.  

Together, we have accomplished a lot over the last four years. One of the most far-reaching accomplishments was FAA Reauthorization.

We put an end to four-and-half years of stop-gap extensions.

We provided stability for industry and we gave the FAA the resources to continue to move forward with NextGen.

This would not have happened without your support and your hard work.

Thank you for helping us get the job done.

The truth is—it’s never too early to begin working on the next FAA Reauthorization.   It’s imperative that we don’t let another lapse occur. 

I know that all of you will continue to be leaders—and work with us on the next bill.

Americans have always been pioneers and problem-solvers. It was Americans who built the first airplane--who envisioned the power of the skies.

We’re still trailblazers, but we need the best and the brightest working together to lead us into the future.

President Obama and everyone in the Administration are committed to American aviation. And we’re going to work very hard to ensure the safety of air travel, the continued progress of NextGen, and more opportunities for industry. 

Through it all, we look forward to working with you.

With that, I’d like to hand it over to Administrator Huerta.

Updated: Wednesday, January 23, 2013