(Washington, DC) America’s aeronautics research and development is an enterprise in crisis. Confirmed by numerous studies and reviews over the last few years – most recently by expert witnesses before the House Science Committee on March 16, 2005 – the need for a strong and innovative U.S. aeronautics R&D program is greater than ever.
"Progress in aeronautics is crucial to the health of the nation’s air transportation industry, an industry that is vital to the continued strength of our domestic economy and our international competitiveness," stated Rep. Mark Udall (D-CO), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics. "And progress is possible only when we make a real commitment to aeronautics research."
Today, Rep. Udall introduced legislation aimed at reinvigorating U.S. aeronautics research. The Aeronautics Research and Development Revitalization Act of 2005 intends to reverse the decline in NASA’s aeronautics program and set it on a productive course for the future.
At that March Space Subcommittee hearing, the chairman of the National Research Council committee asked to review NASA’s Aeronautics Technology Program testified that as a result of declining budgets and changing priorities within NASA, the agency’s aeronautics program "is on its way to becoming irrelevant to the future of aeronautics in this country, and perhaps in the world."
"The need for a strong and innovative aeronautics R&D program is greater than ever," added Rep. Udall. "Given the increasing international challenges to U.S. preeminence in aeronautics, the concern for our quality of life and the pending threat to the viability of the nation’s air transportation system due to anticipated growth in travel demand over the next 20 years, this bill provides guidance that is long overdue."
"I believe that Congress needs to send a clear signal that we consider NASA’s aeronautics program to be critically important to the future of the nation. It is time for Congress to articulate a national policy for aeronautics R&D," continued Rep. Udall. "My legislation provides such a policy."
"We’re not going to have a vital NASA aeronautics program if its budgets continue to decline, but I don’t think it will take massive infusions of new money over the near term to rejuvenate this important program," concluded Rep. Udall. "This bill is a responsive approach both to current fiscal realities and the need to invest wisely in an aeronautics program that meets critical societal needs. I hope that this legislation can serve as a catalyst for a renewed national commitment to a vibrant, cutting-edge aeronautics R&D enterprise, and I intend to work for its expeditious enactment into law."
A summary of the bill’s main provisions follows.
Summary of "Aeronautics Research and Development Revitalization Act of 2005"
The purpose of the bill is to reinvigorate the Nation’s aeronautics R&D enterprise in order to maintain U.S. leadership in aeronautics and aviation, improve the quality of life for American citizens, support economic growth, and promote the security of the Nation.
The legislation includes the following provisions:
TITLE I: Establishes a national policy for aeronautics R&D, namely that: "It shall be the policy of the United States to reaffirm the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 and its identification of aeronautical research and development as a core mission of NASA. Further, it shall be the policy of the United States to promote aeronautical research and development that will expand the capacity, ensure the safety, and increase the efficiency of the Nation’s air transportation system, promote the security of the Nation, protect the environment, and retain the leadership of the United States in global aviation."
TITLE II: Establishes breakthrough R&D initiatives with the objective of achieving significant advances within the next 10 or 20 years in the following three areas:
- Technologies to enable environmentally desirable commercial aircraft with significantly lower takeoff and approach noise, lower energy consumption, and lower emissions compared to aircraft currently in commercial service.
- Technologies to enable commercial supersonic transport flight over populated areas.
- Technologies to enable rotorcraft and other runway-independent air vehicles that are significantly safer, quieter, more environmentally compatible than current vehicles.
The legislation would also direct NASA to have the National Research Council provide continuing oversight and evaluation of NASA’s progress in each of the R&D areas.
TITLE III: Establishes a number of other R&D thrusts within NASA’s aeronautics program, including:
- A Fundamental Research and Technology Base program that is not tied to specific development projects.
- An Airspace Systems Research program that is to be aligned with the objectives of the Joint Planning and Development Office’s (JPDO) Next Generation Air Transportation System Integrated Plan.
- An Aviation and Security Research program that directly addresses the safety and security needs of the National Airspace System (NAS) and the aircraft that fly in it. Its activities shall also be aligned with the objectives of the JPDO.
- Research programs directed towards developing and testing concepts for zero-emissions aircraft and for uncrewed aircraft that could operate in the atmosphere of Mars. Both research programs would be conducted by means of competitively awarded grants to teams of researchers that could include participants from universities, industry, and government.
- A broad program of research in hypersonics.
- A program of aeronautics scholarships for U.S. citizens who wish to pursue graduate work in aeronautical engineering.
- Collaborative research with NOAA directed at significantly improving the reliability of two- to six-hour aviation weather forecasts.
- University-based centers for research on aviation training.
- An independent assessment of the Nation’s wake turbulence R&D program
- A policy for the operation of NASA’s aeronautical test facilities, namely that users will be charged the costs associated with their tests, but that NASA shall not seek to recover the full costs of the operation of those facilities from the users. NASA shall establish a core funding account to maintain the operation and viability of NASA’s aeronautical test facilities.
TITLE IV: Provides a five-year funding plan for NASA’s aeronautics program. Restores aeronautics funding to its FY 2004 level for FY 2006 ($1.057 billion) and increases funding by 3 percent per year through FY 2010 (to a level of $1.19 billion).