Is The FAA Giving the U.S. Congress The Cake Eater Treatment?

Apparently the FAA has set out to dispel any remaining doubts about their professional prowess when dealing with pressing issues in any semblance of a timely fashion. Some believe the letter addressed to the Honorable Howard “Buck” McKeon (below) highlights if nothing else a growing self-confidence that the FAA may be starting to believe it’s own cant that it is too big to fail, and just possibly beyond the reach of the constituency.

The FAA is no stranger to highlighting and emphasizing it’s supposed regulatory progress. Here, though we may have witnessed a first with the FAA making the point that they beat the deadline for another that they subsequently missed. This latest prose has a few seasoned integrationistas espousing the notion that this could very well be the FAA’s lack of progress magnum opus!

Airspace integration in the U.S. has become subjective with its own distinctive interagency progress blind spot. Where the standbys never wear thin, and one can attribute all lack of progress to other causes. Safety has been one of these viable stand bys, but years of talking about the need for data has left that old nag swag-bellied.

For the reader’s review, a letter written on behalf of the RCAPA membership urging Congress to reassert their mandate. With any luck, we can keep the FAA on the same nag (however unsightly it has become), through the NAS integration stream.

November 23, 2012

The Honorable Howard P. “Buck” McKeon

House of Representatives 

Washington D.C. 20515

Re: FAA Acting Administrator Huerta’s response to the Caucus’s letter dated August 1 2012.

Dear Congressman McKeon:

We in the domestic unmanned aircraft community are disappointed with Mr. Huerta’s misguided views. In this instance an open-ended delay to UAS airspace integration due to privacy issues, something new for the FAA. Possibly the acting Administrator lacks a complete understanding of the position and authority of the FAA? Something we will have should remember if the confirmation question ever arises.

It appears to many in the Global unmanned aircraft systems community that our FAA looks for every opportunity and avenue to avoid the UA airspace integration issue. This is not conjecturing as the RCAPA has years of hands on involvement and experience with the Global Airspace Integration effort.

The RCAPA Board had many reservations about the proposed language offered up by industry for inclusion in H.R. 658. We were of the opinion that it gave too much leeway to an administrative culture that assumes and demonstrates that it is above oversight and direction.

In closing, we would urge the Caucus to utilize Mr. Huerta’s correspondence as a teachable moment to re-emphasize the FAA’s purview, which historically has not included privacy issues.

Very respectfully,

Patrick Egan

Director, Remote Control Aerial Photography Association

cc: Henry Cuellar Co-Chair Unmanned Systems Caucus

FAA Acting Administrator, Michael Huerta

We now must deal with the Johnny-come-lately privacy advocates who have suggested that the “safety of those on the ground” also encompasses privacy for the Pineapple Express/Hot Tub Time Machine set et al. What about hurt feelings, should we charter another committee?

If the issue genuinely pertained to the safety of those on the ground, why aren’t folks up in arms about the 600 + tons of lead spewed about the country from the deceptively labelled Low Lead 100 Avgas? The EPA contends, “The most important step parents, doctors, and others can take is to prevent lead exposure before it occurs.”

Poisoning children and subjecting them to a lifetime of preventative ailments and lower IQ’s is apparently fine and dandy with the golf bag flyers, privacy advocates and FAA. Are we to assume that the “Do No Harm” maxim does not apply to children?

If we are going to cede privacy is actually a showstopper, put someone from the ACLU or EFF on the current UAS ARC. Another affected stakeholder group has just been identified.

We will take the feedback into consideration, but in the meantime we urge the reader to look forward to the annual end of the year wrap up, where we will touch on the highlights and lowlights of the 2012 Global airspace integration effort.

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