Charlie Bravo Aviation CEO René Banglesdorf was fortunate enough to meet U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao on Tuesday, March 12 as she spoke on behalf of the Department of Transportation for an event at Austin’s South by Southwest (SXSW).


Below is René’s firsthand account of the experience.

Creative Film. Check. Impactful Music. Check. Innovative Technology. Check. Austin’s SXSW is a destination for all sorts of trendy things. Today it also welcomed to the stage someone who holds immense power to promote or withhold technological advances in the United States, US Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao.

Who thinks of a governmental agency as being innovative or musical? Well, not many. Chao explained in her speech the Department of Transportation (DOT) has the responsibility for public safety–while advancing innovation, for which the US is known as a leader around the world. This is vitally important to our future GDP and especially aviation as an industry.

Since being sworn in as Secretary of Transportation, Chao has been advocating for the DOT to loosen regulatory constraints on innovation. In October 2017, she signed an order to allow the testing of unmanned aerial vehicle technologies without the bureaucratic red tape that would slow down US companies seeking to beat Middle Eastern and Chinese competitors to market with developments.

Today, she identified an issue that stifles many innovators in transportation–from hyperloop and tunneling to autonomous vehicles on the ground and in the sky. Each of these modernizations crosses traditional silos of transportation, needing input or approval from up to five different departments within DOT.

At SXSW, Chao announced a cross-modal body of senior transportation department leaders who will be charged with swiftly addressing and resolving complicated questions relating to innovative technologies that will keep the United States at the forefront of transportation advancements. This team will be called the Non-Traditional and Emerging Transportation Technology (NETT) Council and will hold its first meeting later this week.

Sec. Chao, thanks for quietly identifying the bottlenecks in technological advances and working to make things better. From those of us within the industry, we see slow but sure progress. And from a personal perspective, thanks for serving in such a visible role for women like me, in male-dominated industries. You are indeed inspirational.