Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee Markup -- H.R. 2698
Opening Statement By Chairman Mark Udall
This morning, the Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics will mark up H.R. 2698, the Federal Aviation Research and Development Reauthorization Act of 2007. H.R. 2698 reflects the constructive input of Members on both sides of the aisle, witnesses at our series of FAA hearings earlier this spring, as well as input from a diverse range of stakeholders in the aviation and research communities.
The Federal Aviation Administration’s stated mission is to “provide the safest, most efficient aerospace system in the world”, and its stated vision is to “improve the safety and efficiency of aviation, while being responsive to our customers and accountable to the public.” I think those are laudable and important goals, and I want to support FAA’s efforts in striving to reach those goals.
To that end, this legislation is focused on ensuring the FAA will have the tools that it will need to keep the nation’s air transportation system safe, efficient, and environmentally friendly. Thus, the Act reauthorizes a range of important R&D activities at the FAA, starts up new initiatives in some key areas, and contains provisions aimed at strengthening the interagency Joint Planning and Development Office (JPDO), which has the responsibility of planning and developing the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen).
With respect to the JPDO, the Act responds to the recommendations of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) as well as other expert witnesses that the Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee heard from at our recent hearings by including provisions aimed at strengthening the effectiveness of the JPDO in carrying out the NextGen initiative. These include such things as:
Strengthening the authority of the JPDO Director,
Requiring each participating agency and department to identify a senior official to be in charge of its activities in support of the NextGen initiative,
Requiring an integrated plan with date-specific timetables for implementation of NextGen capabilities,
Having OMB coordinate each participating agency’s and department’s budget in support of the NextGen initiative,
Directing JPDO to develop contingency plans for dealing with degradation of the NextGen system due to a natural disaster, major equipment failure, or act of terrorism,
Requiring the JPDO to establish noise, emissions, and energy consumption requirements for the NextGen system,
Directing JPDO to develop an R&D roadmap for the integration of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into the national airspace system, and
Having GAO carry out annual reviews of JPDO’s effectiveness.
As important as the JPDO is, the Act recognizes that the FAA, in coordination with other agencies such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), has a critical role to play in supporting other important aviation R&D activities, a number of which have been under funded in recent years according to the testimony of the GAO, FAA’s own R&D advisory committee, and expert witnesses at our hearings. To that end, the Act augments the President’s funding requests for human factors research, weather research, unmanned aircraft systems research, and energy- and environment-related research.
In addition, recent announcements from Europe regarding the potential imposition of emissions penalties on aircraft operations in the next decade have made it clear that the United States needs to better understand the impact of aviation on the climate as well as what might be done to mitigate that impact. This legislation takes the first step in that direction by directing the FAA, in coordination with NASA and the U.S. Climate Change Science Program to develop a plan for such research and then having the National Research Council carry out an independent assessment of that research plan.
The nation’s colleges and universities have an important role to play in carrying out research in support of the nation’s future air transportation system. At the same time, that research is a critical means of helping to train the next generation of scientists, engineers, and aviation specialists that we will need over the coming decades. Thus, this Act establishes a research grants program involving undergraduate students. It also contains provisions aimed at strengthening FAA’s Centers of Excellence program and I want to thank Mr. Feeney for his constructive proposals in that regard.
The Act also contains R&D provisions to continue engine research, in coordination with NASA, which has the goal of enabling existing general aviation aircraft to operate with unleaded aviation fuel. That is a provision that Mr. Lipinski has been very interested in too, and I want to thank him for his efforts on behalf of it. In addition, the legislation continues the Airport Cooperative Research Program and also establishes a runway research program that should benefit both general aviation and commercial air carrier airports.
Finally, in view of the increased importance of space weather to aviation, especially with the increased incidence of flight operations over the polar regions, the Act establishes a multi-agency research program to conduct research on the impacts of space weather on aviation and air passengers.
We all know that air transportation is central to the nation’s economic well-being, our international competitiveness, and our quality of life. FAA’s R&D programs play an important role in ensuring the continued safety and efficiency of America’s air transportation system, and I believe that the Federal Aviation Research and Development Act of 2007 will keep FAA’s R&D enterprise healthy and productive. I again want to thank Mr. Feeney and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for their support and constructive advice regarding this legislation, and I look forward to a productive markup this morning. With that, I would like to turn to my good friend Mr. Feeney for any opening statement he would like to make.