Senate Bill Would Create Center to Advance Aviation

 - March 2, 2020, 10:51 AM

More than 130 aviation, state, education, and other organizations have issued a strong endorsement of a bipartisan bill introduced last week by U.S. Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) and Tammy Duckworth (D-Illinois) to establish a National Center for the Advancement of Aviation (NCAA) to promote and support the development of aviation and aerospace in the U.S.

S.3360 would create a federally chartered but private institution that could be funded through grants and donations and run by a board appointed by the secretaries of Transportation, Defense, and Veterans Affairs. FAA officials would be ex-officio members. The NCAA would focus on four key areas: aviation and aerospace STEM curriculum; workforce development; economic and safety data and research sharing; and cross-disciplinary collaboration.

Noting that the legislation was crafted with stakeholder input and support, Inhofe said, “The NCAA will advance a collaborative process to promote aviation in the United States and assist in the development of the next generation of aviation and aerospace workers."

“As a pilot, I know that investing in aviation-focused education and workforce development programs helps attract and retain the best talent and keeps our nation at the forefront of global aviation innovation,” added Duckworth.

As the lawmakers introduced the legislation, organizations representing nearly every facet of the industry, along with industry stakeholders, airports, and state organization gave their stamp of approval in a joint letter. “We strongly support the creation of a national, independent forum to facilitate collaboration and cooperation between all sectors of aviation and aerospace stakeholders and related partners to coordinate, promote, and support the future of aviation,” they said.

The organizations say this is important because it supports education efforts and provides resources to curriculum developers. They touted other benefits: an NCAA would provide a collaborative forum to share expertise among industry sectors, serve as a central repository for economic and safety data, enable the industry to develop predictive analysis, and support cross-disciplinary conferences.

“Senators Inhofe and Duckworth are proven aviation champions, and their support for this important bill underscores their commitment to ensuring the industry’s future is bright,” said NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen.

The legislation is introduced as Congress remains actively concerned about the looming labor shortage confronting the aviation and aerospace sector. The House aviation subcommittee held a hearing last month to discuss concerns. Also in February, senator Gary Peters (D-Michigan), joined by four other senators, introduced legislation that would provide $5 million annually to the Department of Transportation to produce public information programs promoting STEM-based careers within the transportation industry. That bill, which also has drawn substantial industry support, is the companion to a measure introduced late last year in the House.