Acting FAA administrator Dan Elwell said he wants to see funding reform from US Congress, adding that the current practice of appropriating through continuing resolutions complicates planning and budgetary efforts at the agency. His remarks came during a Nov. 5 speech at the Aero Club of Washington DC.

The acting administrator, while offering praise for the passage of a five-year bill to reauthorize the FAA, said the agency still needs a proper long-term funding bill to ensure maximum stability. The FAA is currently operating on its 47th continuing resolution over the last 11 years.

“This isn’t about more money. We collect plenty to keep the system running. What we need is stability and predictability,” Elwell said. “The FAA hasn’t started a fiscal year with a full appropriation since 1997. Think about that for a second. We support two-thirds of the world’s airspace, nearly a billion passengers and 5% of the GDP. . . It’s just no way to run the largest, most complex air navigation system in the world.”

Elwell also said the US is “staring down a workforce crisis,” noting the number of pilots holding active airmen certificates has declined by 30% since the 1980s.

“We’re competing with Silicon Valley for talent, and we’re losing. If we don’t turn this around, and I mean soon, we’re going to have empty flight decks. Not unmanned—empty,” he said. “Maintenance isn’t exempt, either. Our technical workforce is aging at the same time our pipeline is running dry.”

On deregulation, Elwell said the agency is sticking by US President Donald Trump’s call to cut two regulations for each new one created, as it addresses the numerous rulemakings called for in the FAA reauthorization bill. Such deregulatory actions have already saved the federal government $65 million annually, he noted.

The FAA chief added that “streamlining efforts go well beyond rulemaking,” and said the agency is exploring the use of new technologies to mitigate delays, inefficiencies and bottlenecks in the National Airspace System (NAS).

For example, in the Northeast Corridor, which he called a “petri dish for delays due to weather, construction and volume,” Elwell said the FAA is adding Performance Based Navigation (PBN) procedures and prioritizing initial trajectory-based operations to reduce congestion. Elsewhere, the agency is installing Data Comm at airport air traffic control towers in Memphis, Tennessee; Indianapolis, Indiana; and Kansas City, Missouri—which will enable ATC controllers to transmit flight clearance information to pilots via text message.

Elwell, who has been serving as acting administrator since January, is expected to be replaced when President Trump nominates his pick to serve a five-year term atop the agency. Industry watchers believe that move will likely occur in the coming weeks.

Ben Goldstein, Ben.Goldstein@aviationweek.com