As we wrap up what has been a fairly kind winter here in Chicago – and I hope I don’t live to regret that statement – I start thinking about spring. I'm looking forward to attending a number of spring aviation conferences sponsored by state aviation management organizations and/or state departments of transportation.
These conferences provide FAA the opportunity to interact with state DOTs and airport operators in a single location, and the conferences provide me a chance to stay current on the issues that are most important to airport operators throughout the Great Lakes Region.
In February, I visited East Lansing, MI, to attend the Michigan state conference, co-sponsored by the Michigan Association of Airport Executives and the Michigan Department of Transportation, Department of Aeronautics. In the weeks ahead, I’ll get to South Dakota, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Illinois for their conferences as well. While I won’t be able to make the conference in North Dakota -- and Indiana’s only conference occurs in the fall -- I do plan to visit those states soon, to make sure I stay connected to all of the states within our eight-state region.
I’m privileged to have an opportunity to speak to the attendees at these conferences, to share the new advances that impact aviation today, and may shape the industry going forward. The focus of my words is often on technology, and how it will benefit current and future aviation system users:
I talk about the implementation of the Next Generation Air Transportation System, or NextGen:
- NextGen implementation is a systematic replacement of our current network of ground-based navigation, communication, and surveillance facilities with satellite-based technology that will better meet the aviation needs of the future.
- NextGen replaces an aging ground-based infrastructure that is, each year, becoming more difficult and expensive to maintain.
- NextGen is the direction that our agency, and our National Airspace System, is going, and it’s a subject aviation stakeholders need to know.
I also talk about new entrants to our aviation system, users of our airspace that did not exist a few years ago. The primary new entrant, of course, is the small unmanned aircraft system, or UAS:
- Five or ten years ago, small UAS consisted primarily of hobbyist activity.
- Today, there are over 700,000 small UAS users in FAA’s UAS registry, established in late 2015, and FAA is working hard to develop new rules that will allow innovative uses of UAS while still preserving the level of safety in our airspace that the American people have come to expect.
- These operational experiences, along with research findings from the UAS test sites across the country, help ensure the safe integration of UAS into the nation's airspace.
- In the near future, I plan to visit the Northern Plains UAS test site in Grand Forks, North Dakota with the North Dakota State Aviation Director. While there, I plan to see the latest in UAS technology and advancement.
NextGen and UAS are changing aviation as we know it, and aviation stakeholders need to know about these changes in our aviation system. Most importantly, though, is my attendance at state aviation conferences in the Great Lakes Region. These meetings give me the opportunity to listen to our airport operators and other aviation stakeholders.
That’s a privilege I don’t want to take for granted, and if, in some small way, I can help my agency stay in touch with the perspectives and input of those who make the system work, then attending those conferences is certainly time well spent for me. If anyone from your congressional office attends your state aviation conference, please have them seek me out. I’m always pleased to meet our congressional staff colleagues.
Minnesota Airports Conference - Mankato, Minnesota, April 12-14, 2017
Ohio Aviation Association Conference - Columbus, Ohio, April 18-19, 2017
Wisconsin Aviation Conference - Waukesha, Wisconsin, April 24-26, 2017
North Dakota Congressional Briefing - Bismarck, North Dakota, April 25, 2017
Illinois Aviation Conference - Champaign, Illinois, May 24-25, 2017
Michigan Congressional Briefing - Lansing, Michigan, June 6, 2017
Engineering in Common
Members of the Great Lakes Regional Office Team. From left to right: Cyrus Bracey, Dominika Drozdzal, Christina Drouet, and Barry Cooper.
Christina Drouet shared a commonality with her new colleagues when she began working for the FAA in Illinois in the 1990s.
The Chicago native met employees with similar technical expertise in the Great Lakes (AGL) Regional Office. After ascending through the management ranks, she is one of a Regions and Property Operations (ARO) team of managers in the region’s Special Projects Office. She works alongside Regional Administrator Barry Cooper and O’Hare Modernization Program Manager Mel Banks who also have engineering backgrounds.
“The Great Lakes leadership team is comprised of all engineers,” said Drouet, who became the Great Lakes’ Deputy Regional Administrator in 2015. “If you look around the country at other regional leadership teams, you will find a variety of backgrounds, from military experience to law to aviation.”
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