Building a 21st Century Infrastructure for America: Enabling Innovation in the National Airspace

2167 Rayburn House Office Building

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0 Tuesday, April 04, 2017 @ 10:00 | Contact: Justin Harclerode (202) 225-9446

This is a hearing of the Subcommittee on Aviation.

Summary of Subject Matter
Official Hearing Transcript

  • Ms. Shelley J. Yak, Director, William J. Hughes Technical Center, Federal Aviation Administration | Written Testimony
  • Mr. Gregory McNeal, Executive Vice President and Co-Founder, AirMap | Written Testimony
  • Mr. Sean Cassidy, Director, Safety and Regulatory Affairs, Amazon Prime Air | Written Testimony
  • Mr. Calvin Clifford “Trey” Fayard, III, Chief Executive Officer, FlyGLO LLC | Written Testimony
  • Mr. Brian Whiteside, President, VDOS Global | Written Testimony
  • Mr. Michael P. Moses, President, Virgin Galactic | Written Testimony

Shuster and LoBiondo Opening Statements
Hearing on “Building a 21st Century Infrastructure for America: Enabling Innovation in the National Airspace”
April 4, 2017
(Remarks as Prepared)

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

The United States is the birthplace of aviation.  We paved the way in modern aviation.  Where we have innovated, the world has followed.  We need to ensure our continued leadership. 

New technologies have led to new airspace operators, such as unmanned aircraft and commercial space transportation operators.  These changes in the aviation industry pose both opportunities and challenges for aviation infrastructure.  We must enable innovation and its integration, while also maintaining our incredible aviation safety record.

Companies like Virgin Galactic, SpaceX, and Blue Origin are ramping up operations to make commercial space a regular part of our national transportation system.  SpaceX in particular is targeting 70 launches through 2019, a rate of one launch every two or three weeks.  We are quickly approaching what was once science fiction: commercial space launches nearly every day.

Currently, these launches and reentries take up massive amounts of airspace.  With new technology, we can narrow that amount within the National Airspace.

If our aviation system and infrastructure cannot support these 21st century innovations, then innovation in commercial space and unmanned aircraft will likely occur somewhere else.

Amazon, for example, has been forced to test UAS package delivery in the UK, rather than the U.S., because of our inefficient and burdensome regulatory processes.  That’s research money and jobs that could be here in the United States.  We have to do better to ensure that we don’t miss these kind of opportunities in the future.

I look forward to hearing from today’s witnesses about where we are now, and what we in Congress can do to build a 21st century aviation infrastructure that can support and enable innovation.

Chairman Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ)
Subcommittee on Aviation

Today the Aviation Subcommittee is holding the fourth hearing in preparation for the FAA reauthorization.  This hearing will examine our continuously changing aviation system, which evolves with the introduction and growth of new technologies, innovative business models, and non-traditional users.

Before we begin, I want to encourage all stakeholders and members of the public to send your ideas and thoughts on innovation in the aviation industry and FAA reauthorization to our dedicated e-mail: transportfeedback@mail.house.gov.

Since the turn of the millennium, our aviation system has rapidly changed with the invention of new aviation technologies and new business ideas.  For example, when Congress deregulated the airline industry in the late 1970’s, the now familiar overnight delivery industry barely existed. 

The aviation industry of today is vastly different from what we saw in 2000.  Ten years from now, it will certainly look different still.

The development of unmanned aircraft systems, or UAS, has been underway for more than a century, but only recently have UAS become widely and inexpensively available thanks to rapid advances in technology.  The sheer volume of UAS now operating in the National Airspace System – more than 750,000 are now registered – is redefining how aircraft operate in low-altitude airspace.

Commercial space transportation has existed since 1989, but only in the last few years has it begun to evolve from a niche industry to a self-sustaining economic engine.

Changes in the airline industry have altered the ways in which the travelling public gets from point A to point B.

While many of these changes have been for the better, some communities have seen air service decline or disappear altogether.  In the wake of these changes, new companies are beginning to emerge to fill the void and restore connectivity between regional communities.

As many Members on this subcommittee represent small communities and rural areas, I am sure new business models that can better connect their districts to the air transportation system will be of particular interest.  Such new business models which fill that gap have the potential to greatly affect the aviation system of the future.

Maintaining American leadership in aerospace is a top priority for this subcommittee.  As we all know, we cannot rest on our laurels; the benefits of technological advancement and the costs of complacency are too great.  Cooperation between industry and government is critical to maintaining the rapid pace of innovation necessary in aviation.  And, it is vital to building a 21st century infrastructure to support users, new technologies, and new innovations in how to deliver air service and connectivity.

The witnesses on our panel today represent the hundreds of thousands of talented Americans who push the boundaries of aviation technology and innovation, and make the system better for everyone.  I am proud to represent several thousand of these workers at the FAA’s Technical Center, which plays an important part in the partnership between government and industry.

The Technical Center is a “one-stop-shop” for the best and brightest to research, develop, demonstrate, and validate new aviation technologies and data sources.  Just down the road, ground will soon be broken on a new technology park that will allow private companies to leverage Technical Center resources and expertise.  This exciting project will greatly benefit the mission of the Technical Center and the nation as a whole.

We all know that innovation and change involves challenges.  As the subcommittee charged with ensuring the safety of aviation, we must take care that innovation in the airspace is achieved while ensuring the continued safety of the airspace.

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