FAA: Providing the Safest Aerospace System in the World

The mission of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is to provide the safest, most efficient aerospace system in the world. There are many ways in which the FAA seeks to accomplish its mission. Many people are aware that the FAA develops safety regulations which set the minimum safety requirements for aviation. However, many people are not aware that the FAA also conducts research and development to help it achieve its mission. There are many offices within the FAA, each with their own set of duties and responsibilities.

The Airports Organization (ARP) provides leadership in planning and developing a safe and efficient national airport system; The Air Traffic Organization (ATO) is the operational arm of the FAA and is responsible for safe and efficient air navigation services to approximately 30 million square miles of airspace; and Aviation Safety (AVS) is the organization responsible for the certification, production approval, and continued airworthiness of aircraft; certification of pilots, mechanics, and others in safety-related positions. AVS is also responsible for certification of all operational and maintenance enterprises in domestic civil aviation, certification and safety oversight of approximately 7,300 U.S. commercial airlines and air operators, civil flight operations, and developing regulations.

The William J. Hughes Technical Center in Atlantic City, New Jersey is one of the nation’s premier aviation research, development, test and evaluation facilities. Its world-class laboratories and engineering place the Technical Center at the forefront of the FAA’s challenge to modernize the U.S. air transportation system. The Technical Center serves as the FAA’s national scientific test base for research and development, test and evaluation, verification and validation in air traffic control, communications, navigation, airports, aircraft safety, and security. The Technical Center is the primary facility supporting the nation’s Next Generation Air Transportation System, called NextGen.

Within the Aviation Research Division, one of several divisions at the William J. Hughes Technical Center, there are five branches: Fire Safety, Human Factors, Airport Technology, Software and Digital Systems, and Structures and Propulsions. The Fire Safety Branch conducts long-range research to develop a totally fire resistant passenger aircraft cabin with the goal of eliminating cabin fire as a cause of fatalities in aviation. The Human Factors Branch employs scientific methods and advanced technology in the conduct of research and development to ensure that systems that include human operators and maintainers perform as effectively and safely as possible.

The Airport Technology Branch conducts the necessary research and development required to enhance the safety of operations at our nation’s airports and to ensure the adequacy of engineering specifications and standards in all areas of the airport systems and, where necessary, develop data to support new standards. The Structures and Propulsions Branch’s work includes research on structures and materials, propulsion and aircraft icing, and fuels and energy.

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