Press Releases

Chairman Graves Statement from Hearing on Aviation Workforce Pipeline

Washington, D.C., July 10, 2024 | Justin Harclerode (202) 225-9446
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Washington, D.C. – Opening remarks, as prepared, of Aviation Subcommittee Chairman Garret Graves (R-LA) from today’s hearing entitled, “Eliminating Bottlenecks: Examining Opportunities to Recruit, Retain, and Engage Aviation Talent”:

I want to start by thanking all the witnesses for being here today. This hearing is about bottlenecks in aviation. When you think about bottlenecks in aviation, most folks probably think immediately about passengers, commercial airlines, and transportation experiences. Certainly, that’s a big part of it. But we need to be thinking about not just the problems of today, but the problems of the future.

For commercial space launches, half of all licensed space launches ever have occurred in the last five years. In 2015, there were 14 authorized commercial space transportation operations. In 2023, there were 113. By 2028, it’s projected that there are going to be 338 – just in commercial space launch. For commercial travel – America had its busiest travel day ever on Sunday, July 7, 2024, with more than 3 million passengers screened, breaking the record that had been established just one month before. In the drone space, in 2016 there were 20,000 remote pilots. Now, there are over 400,000. There are currently more than 780,000 drones registered with the FAA, and that number is projected to grow in excess of 1,000,000 just in the next few years.

We need to be concerned not just about the stresses in the aerospace industry today, but the reality that these stressors are going to grow greater and greater in the future. The good news is that folks here on this dais – and a lot of the great staff behind us in this room – worked tirelessly over the last two years to deliver the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2024, which was signed into law just a few months ago.

The bill addresses a lot of the bottlenecks that we have identified, either by giving the FAA a path forward to fix these issues or by giving certainty to the industry to help to address some of these choke points and growing demands.

One of the biggest challenges we have right now is with our air traffic controllers. The FAA is approximately 3,000 controllers short right now. We took a lot of steps in the FAA bill to help improve hiring and move the needle in the near-term, which is the real pinch point in the pipeline. You’re seeing a great disparity between the retirement rate of air traffic controllers and other aviation professionals and the pace of hiring to fill those available positions. And thinking about that bottleneck that hits a bit closer to home, our office heard from Louisiana Tech in 2020 about the need for more Designated Pilot Examiners to meet the training needs of the students. If the Designated Pilot Examiners are short, then it’s going to have an impact on the ability of us to meet the targets on pilot demand as well.

I’m not going to go through every single problem and every single bottleneck that we have, but I do want to say that we cannot rest on our laurels after seeing the FAA bill signed into law. We’ve got to focus on implementation. We need to focus on this explosive growth of this really exciting industry in aviation, whether it’s about passenger travel, general aviation, innovation in these new platforms, or commercial space launches.

Our FAA bill was a fantastic foundation and I’m looking forward to hearing from our witnesses today about how we move forward in implementation and, importantly, what the future looks like and what we need to be doing to facilitate this innovation in improving the American aerospace industry.

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Tags: Aviation