AIA Seeks More R&D Funding

 - March 30, 2007, 1:09 PM

The Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) is calling on the Bush Administration to develop a vision for aeronautics similar to the one proposed recently by the President for space exploration.

“The most spectacular enhancements of life in the 21st century will be tied to discoveries made in research and development for aerospace,” said Clayton Jones, chairman, president and CEO of Rockwell Collins.

The AIA’s second five-year R&D plan follows on the heels of its first five-year plan, which sought and accomplished significant funding increases for defense R&D.
The new plan calls for continuation of the DOD’s strong levels of R&D funding and seeks increases for NASA and the FAA.

Jones, chairman of the AIA board of governors, said AIA’s plan asks the government to reverse declining funding for the FAA’s aeronautics research and development budgets and its facilities and equipment modernization budgets. In the White House’s 2005 budget projection, FAA funding for modernization has been reduced significantly.

The aerospace industry has serious concerns about cutting funding for ATC modernization just as air traffic is reaching saturation in some cities, he said. AIA’s plan requests a $3.8 billion increase in FAA funding over the next five years for civil aeronautics. The association’s plan also stipulates a budget increase of $34 billion over the next five years for NASA, and seeks to increase funding for NASA aeronautics next year to $1.7 billion–up from the current 2005 projection of $900 million, an 11 percent drop from this year.

AIA president and CEO John Douglass said the President’s vision for space “charts an essential course for space exploration and answers many of the industry’s questions about the kinds of technology that will be needed in the future.” Although AIA supports the President’s plan, which increases funding for space exploration capabilities by $12 billion over the next five years, the association believes the Administration should be challenged to create a new human-rated space exploration vehicle by 2010, rather than 2014. The current NASA plan calls for retirement of the space shuttle by 2010 and a new manned vehicle by 2014, leaving a four-year gap in which maintenance of the International Space Station would be accomplished by Russian or French space vehicles.

Jones said the aerospace industry is also concerned that funds would be diverted within the NASA budget from aeronautics to the space program. He added that the industry is asking NASA to maintain continued balance between space and aeronautics budgets.

He said AIA fully supports the formation of the multi-agency joint planning and development office (JPDO), tasked with modernizing the U.S. air transportation system. He promised that AIA’s members will work with the JPDO to develop a unified interagency R&D program, coordinated across the government.

According to Jones, AIA’s plan encourages public/private partnerships to develop the National Airspace System (NAS) modernization plan for new technology in safety; ATM development and deployment; NAS transformation; propulsion and fuel systems; advanced materials structures; environmental impacts; and for rotorcraft.

AIA’s 2004 to 2008 plan does not ask for increased funding for defense R&D (2005 budget projection calls for an increase of $69 billion), but seeks a reallocation of funds to areas that are critical to the industry and have been underfunded in recent years, such as avionics, rotorcraft, propulsion systems and GPS modernization.