FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said Thursday that FAA budget cuts may endanger both the agency's ability to oversee "the world's safest aviation system" and may in fact stunt the very economic growth austere budgets are designed to create. Speaking at the Society of Aviation and Flight Educators symposium in Atlanta, Babbitt said safety oversight isn't the only concern. "I'm not going to put safety in a backseat to anything, but then what we do with the other programs? I have said it publicly and I have said it privately, if you reduce these funding levels far enough, we're on the edge of degrading our ability to maintain the world's safest aviation system. We're on the edge of choking the certification of new products. We have a finite number of people and if we furlough several thousand of them, we're not going to be able to bring new products to market," Babbitt said. He added that the agency oversees certification of more than 2200 projects a year and cutting staff will reduce its capacity to do that, creating a cascading economic effect that will cost the industry and the economy jobs. He said the FAA has submitted a "very reasonable" budget, but that the House of Representatives may be looking for more significant cuts.
He made the comments in response to a question about whether the agency will have the resources to support some of the safety and training initiative ideas the SAFE symposium generated during a two-day event that began on Wednesday. "These initiatives show how you on the flight line, the flight educators, are making a big difference. You do more than talk about professionalism. You do it by example. People watch what you do and they take it very seriously. When you lead by example, that's what gives life and meaning to a safety culture."
Babbitt told the group he was happy to have help in developing the agency's emerging five-year plan to reduce the fatal accident rate. It will focus on risk management, training and education and outreach by both the agency and industry organizations such as SAFE, NAFI and others. AVweb will provide additional coverage on specific recommendations the symposium generated.