At his first open forum with the GA public at EAA AirVenture, held on Thursday morning, acting FAA Administrator Michael Huerta faced a wide range of questions, and unlike in some recent years, he took them direct from the audience instead of from EAA officials. Huerta and his staff handled the usual questions about user fees — “There’s not a lot of support for the president’s proposal,” Huerta said — and NextGen — “This is the biggest infrastructure project in the nation,” he said. NextGen has a lot of moving parts, but Huerta said he’s hopeful that it will continue to be implemented and GA will see benefits from it.But the last question of the session, from a young pilot, perhaps raised the most concerns about the future of aviation.
“I’m a professional pilot,” said Shannon Buckley, “and because of the new rule that requires first officers to have 1,500 hours, I’m going to lose my job next June.” Huerta said the FAA had to propose a rule to comply with a mandate from Congress to change the rule by next summer, but they tried to create more flexibility by allowing pilots to get credit for university training and military service. “I don’t qualify for any of that,” said Buckley, “and neither do a lot of other guys, who have families, and are going to be out of work.” After the session, Buckley told AVweb the change will make it difficult to recruit new pilots into airline careers. “It’s a terrible, terrible rule,” he said. “In my current job, I can only log about 30 or 40 hours a month. There’s no way I’m going to have 1,500 hours by next June. The industry is going to lose a lot of good aviators.”