Rep. Larsen Casts Doubt on Testing for Domestic Travel

 - February 8, 2021, 11:20 AM

This story is part of AIN's continuing coverage of the impact of the coronavirus on aviation.

While new U.S. mandatory testing requirements went into effect late last month for international arrivals, House aviation subcommittee chairman Rick Larsen (D-Washington) expressed reservations about expanding those requirements to domestic flights.

Speaking during a virtual meeting of the Aero Club of Washington on Friday, Larsen said many Transportation and Infrastructure Committee members believe that such requirements “would not only be cumbersome but not very useful” and that a better use of time would be to devote attention to safety within the cabin and at airports to reduce possible transmission vectors. “Testing doesn’t necessarily add to that.”

Having said that, Larsen conceded that the discussion surrounding testing is “not a conversation that’s over” and added that it is one worth having to be prepared for future pandemics. But, he reiterated, “My personal view is that testing before you get on an airplane is probably not the best use of our time and resources right now.”

Larsen outlined his priorities for the upcoming Congress, citing recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic chiefly among them. Other top goals surrounded aviation safety, support for innovation, U.S. competitiveness, and passenger safety.

As for recovery, Larsen said Covid-19 “continues to have a devastating impact.” While Congress provided payroll support aid in two massive relief bills, he said he is continuing to look for further aid. In addition, he discussed his desire for more relief for airports and especially airport concessionaires in the future. Further, he stressed he was continuing to push for relief to preserve manufacturing jobs, noting legislation he recently reintroduced legislation to provide cost-sharing assistance to protect at-risk positions. “We have some work to do to support aviation and aerospace.”

As for the other priorities, he noted they were carry-overs from the past Congress, but the Boeing Max crashes and pandemic had taken time away from them. “I am hopeful we can move back to looking at some of the broader goals,” he said.

On the aviation safety front, on Friday he introduced legislation calling for national aviation preparedness plans that address national coordination on measures such as screening, contract tracing, vaccine access, and airport cleaning, among other areas to the U.S transportation system can be prepared for health crises.

When asked about the potential for general aviation to assist in the Covid-19 vaccine delivery, he advised that operators right now don’t need to wait for the federal government but that models exist for general aviation involvement. He cited one in his own state where distribution is extending to certain tribes in Alaska.

On innovation, Larsen discussed support for advancements that would foster more environmentally friendly operations, including in areas such as eVTOLs.