The FAA’s Time Warp


Fresh into an all-New Year, it’s tempting to hope that somehow, this year things will be different. The old traps and habits and flaws of the past will fade away, as transient as champagne bubbles and confetti, and life will be shiny and new. Yet a few weeks later we find ourselves back in our old bad habits.

So it is with the FAA, though the hopefulness and the rude awakenings seem to be on a constant treadmill, all year long. Can we have general aviation airplanes certified at twice the speed and half the cost? It seems endlessly within reach, yet always just over the horizon. Can we have some sensible changes to simplify medical certification for private pilots? Can farmers and photographers who want to fly drones in line-of-sight, low-altitude, simple applications far from airports be granted a legal way to do that? Why not allow more leeway so pilots can adopt cheaper options for ADS-B compliance? And it would be nice if LSA and other GA airplanes could get the OK to fly with electric powerplants.

It feels mean to pick on the FAA, knowing that in fact they’re mainly a lot of hardworking folks, many of them involved in GA just like we are, who are doing the best they can. But they are starting to seem like Congress, more hopelessly mired than usual, generating plenty of heat and activity but no forward motion. It’s easy to insist that issues are complex and safety is paramount. But technology evolves, and regulators need to keep up.

I hope the FAA will surprise me in the New Year and churn out some great, forward-thinking, sensible proposals. I don’t know of any magic formula to make that happen, and maybe it’s just not possible. I’d like to believe that somehow human willpower and imagination can overcome entrenched and unproductive old behaviors. That’s what we all wish every New Year, when we vow to eat better and exercise more. But time will tell.

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