"Meet the FAA Administrator" sessions here at EAA AirVenture have often been contentious in the past -- providing a venue for the angry, the frustrated, the determined voices of GA to vent their concerns to the person at the top. But this Thursday, as Acting Administrator Bobby Sturgell made his debut appearance at Oshkosh, the crowd was unusually sparse and somewhat subdued. He encouraged the pilots in the audience to "stay focused" when operating on the airport surface and help to improve runway safety. And he drew warm applause from the crowd when he noted that the backlog of FAA medical waivers is now down to almost zero, and most are processed within 15 days. Sturgell encouraged the crowd to participate in the rulemaking process by sending in comments, and said, "We are trying to be responsive." He said he was prepared to discuss the recently released changes to the LSA rules and the new policy on interpreting the 51-percent rule. But although that 51-percent rule was the topic of a contentious debate at an EAA/FAA forum earlier in the week, the matter wasn't even raised during Sturgell's Q&A session.
When asked why the FAA won't reopen negotiations with the air traffic controllers union, he said those issues are "complex," and added that controllers -- even new trainees -- are well-paid and he appreciates their work. "It would cost a billion dollars to give NATCA what they want," he said. Regarding user fees, he said it is likely to be another year or more before the FAA funding issue is settled, with a change in administration due to take place in January.