Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization: Enabling a 21st Century Aviation System

2167 Rayburn House Office Building

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0 Tuesday, March 03, 2015 @ 09:30 | Contact: Jim Billimoria 202-225-9446

This is a hearing of the Subcommittee on Aviation. 

Summary of Subject Matter

Official Hearing Transcript

Witness List:

  • Honorable Michael Huerta, Administrator, Federal Aviation Administration | Written Testimony

  • Shuster and LoBiondo Opening Statements
    Hearing on “Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization: Enabling a 21st Century Aviation System”
    March 3, 2015
    (Remarks as Prepared)

    Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA)
    Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure

    I’d like to thank Mr. LoBiondo for holding today’s hearing, and I’d also like to thank Administrator Huerta for being here today to discuss issues regarding FAA reauthorization, one of the top priorities of the Committee.

    The United States has the safest air traffic control system in the world, but it’s becoming more inefficient, and we’re at risk of losing our lead in aviation.  We critically need to modernize the ATC system, something the FAA has been working since the beginning of the Reagan administration.  Unfortunately, we have too little to show for it except for cost overruns and delays.  As a result, many stakeholders have understandably lost confidence in FAA’s ability to modernize.

    We need to intensify the discussion about how we can achieve significant reforms in the next FAA bill.  We need to talk about what other countries have done to successfully increase the efficiency of their air traffic control systems and separate them from the political processes that have created instability in our own system.

    We need to act now to modernize our ATC system and streamline our regulatory processes if we want to remain world leaders in aviation.  

    Chairman Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ)
    Subcommittee on Aviation

    On September 30th of this year the current Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization expires.  This current authorization occurred after five years of short-term extensions and a partial shutdown which resulted in instability and uncertainty for the agency, industry stakeholders, and the flying public.  Chairman Shuster and I have repeatedly pledged that such actions will not happen again.

    As we draft a new authorization, there are several major areas this subcommittee is looking towards. Technological advances since the last bill are at the heart of two key areas of focus: the move towards GPS-based air traffic control under NextGen and the growth of commercial interest in unmanned aerial systems.  These technologies hold enormous potential that could improve the efficiency and safety of our airspace system while unlocking billions of dollars in economic activity for the country. 

    As Administrator Huerta will concur, NextGen utilizes many technologies that would not only increase the capacity but also improve the safety of our airspace.  Many of these technologies were researched, developed and tested at the FAA Technical Center – the premier R&D facility for the FAA – within my district.  And I thank Administrator Huerta for joining me at the Tech Center yesterday to once again demonstrate the immense capabilities and talents of the men and women who work there.  I know my colleagues in Congress who have toured the Tech Center have walked away impressed.

    It is clear that progress has been made on NextGen.  Some net benefits of NextGen are starting to be realized at select airports across the country, yet a great deal of work by the FAA to fully implement the program nationally remains.  I would again convey that Congress as a whole is closely monitoring the FAA’s progress on NextGen and my colleagues will be looking at your use of resources and difficulty at meeting realistic deadlines.

    For the past year, we’ve received an extensive amount of input from stakeholders regarding the slow pace of FAA’s implementation of NextGen as well as the agency’s inefficient and overly burdensome certification processes.  Many of these problems have been identified in several oversight hearings conducted by this subcommittee, as well by the DOT Inspector General and Government Accountability Office.  In addition, I have raised them directly with Secretary Foxx and Administrator Huerta.

    Furthermore, after months of delay, the FAA finally released its proposed rule for the integration of small unmanned aerial systems or UAS into the National Airspace System.  Unfortunately the reported timeline of 2017 for finalization of the UAS rule would ensure other countries move ahead of the U.S., reaping the economic benefits as well as preventing new American jobs from being created.  I’d strongly urge the FAA to be more aggressive with UAS integration while better utilizing the FAA Technical Center and six test sites to achieve this shared goal.  I stand ready to work with Administrator Huerta on this issue.

    As we move forward with the FAA Authorization Act, we must ensure that our efforts to address these long-standing problems do not adversely impact safety, which has and will continue to be the top priority of the Subcommittee.  On that note, I would like to hear from the Administrator on the FAA’s efforts to implement one of the last outstanding requirements of the Airline Safety Act of 2010, the establishment of a pilot records database.

    On a final note, we are now well into the 21st century, however many of our systems and regulatory platforms are for a 20th century world.  Now is the time for Congress, stakeholders and the community to work together to do something big, to ensure that our leadership in aviation is maintained.  

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