September 15, 2022
Acting Administrator, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
Executive Vice President, Chief Policy Officer, and Head of Strategic Advocacy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
The aviation industry is rapidly changing and improving, driven by innovative advancements and cutting-edge technology. With more opportunities for public-private collaboration on sustainability and infrastructure improvements, those in the industry expect to see some big changes moving forward.
At the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Aerospace Summit, leaders from the space and aviation sectors addressed the modern challenges and opportunities facing these industries. In a fireside chat on day two of the Summit, Neil Bradley of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce sat down with Billy Nolen, acting administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), to discuss the current and future state of the aviation industry.
The FAA Has a Process in Place for Integrating New Technology
Every time a conventional airline releases a new model, it’s certified by the FAA to ensure it will operate safely in the field. As technology continues to forge ahead, Nolen explained how the FAA currently handles understanding, developing, and integrating these new advancements.
“When we think about advanced air mobility... we think of it in three ways,” Nolen said. “First, we have got to certify the vehicle… [Secondly,] how will it operate?… And then thirdly, we have got to figure out how we integrate that into our nation's airspace — and do it in a way that allows all of this to safely coexist with everything that we have out there today.”
When it comes to integrating new technology in the air system, Nolen — a pilot for over 42 years — exhibits confidence in conviction.
“What we will never do… is sacrifice safety for the sake of innovation,” he said. “It has to go hand-in-hand. The public, they expect it, and they demand it.”
What the Average Passenger’s Experience Will Look Like in the Future
Looking a few years ahead, Nolen envisions a world with an elevated passenger experience due to advancements such as the use of air taxis, electrification, and drones.
“We are seeing that in the next, say three to five years, we're talking about three million drones,” Nolen said. “We're talking about hundreds, if not thousands … of urban air mobility vehicles. All of that has the ability to dramatically change the way we fly [and] the way we get around.”
Nolen sees these advancements as a way to get ahead worldwide, putting U.S. aviation at the forefront of global innovation and leadership.
“We have proven that we have the most efficient and safest airspace system in the world,” Nolen said. “We think we can do it here and… we can lead the world, and in some cases, maybe supply the world. So, that's where we're looking to go.”
How the FAA Is Supporting Sustainability Efforts in the Industry
One of the most prominent advancements in the industry is the push for sustainability. According to Nolen, it’s causing a “level of energy and excitement among all of the industry stakeholders.”
“This year, we're using sustainable aviation fuels at the tune of about 5 million gallons,” Nolen added. “Our aspirational goal is to get to 3 billion gallons of sustainable aviation fuel by the end of the decade to meet our long-term aspirational goal of having 35 billion by 2050.”
While there’s a lot to be done, Nolen assures that those sustainability efforts will impact the aviation industry’s entire infrastructure.
“We're going to make sure that we can do this on a global scale,” he said.
From the Series