New Bills To Step Up Federal Coordination of AAM

 - March 3, 2021, 9:28 AM
Congress is considering legislation that would boost the development of advanced air mobility (AAM) in the U.S. Under the legislation, a working group would be established to look at steps to mature AAM aircraft operations; safety and security involved with air traffic management concepts for AAM; federal policies that can be leveraged to advance AAM; necessary infrastructure to support AAM; and benefits associated with such development. (Photo: Signature Flight Support)

Legislation seeking to boost the development of advanced air mobility (AAM) in the U.S. is now progressing in both the House and Senate with bipartisan support. The proposed bills, “Advanced Air Mobility Coordination and Leadership Act,” call on Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to establish an inter-agency working group to coordinate efforts to develop a complete AAM ecosystem to support widespread operations of new eVTOL aircraft.

The House bill, H.R.1339, was introduced last week by Reps. Sharice Davids (D-Kansas) and co-sponsored by Garrett Graves (R-Louisiana). A corresponding bill, S.516, was proposed this week with the backing of Republican Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran and Democratic Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema.

“American aviation is entering a new era of innovation and growth, and industry leaders should have a seat at the table as the federal government creates programs to advance the development of this technology and sets safety and operation standards,” Moran said in introducing the bill.

In addition to the Department of Transportation, the proposed working group would include representatives from the FAA and NASA, along with the Departments of Defense, Energy, Commerce, and Homeland Security. Manufacturers of eVTOL aircraft would be invited to join the group, as would organizations involved in providing services such as pilot training and ground handling, as well as aircraft operators and maintenance providers, unions representing pilot and air traffic controllers, state, local and tribal agencies, first responders, environmental groups, and energy companies.

The bills call for the working group to be established within 120 days of legislation being enacted, and ready to start its deliberations 60 days later. The group would be expected to complete a review and examination of a wide-ranging set of factors needed to support AAM development and to report on proposals within 180 days after the completion of this work. This implies a timeline extending to around the fourth quarter of 2022.

Under the legislation, the group would look at steps to mature AAM aircraft operations beyond initial operations; safety and security involved with air traffic management concepts involving AAM; federal policies that can be leveraged to advance AAM; necessary infrastructure to support the development of AAM; and benefits associated with such development.

The legislation has drawn the support of several key aviation industry groups, including NBAA, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), Aerospace Industries Association, the Vertical Flight Society, Helicopter Association International, American Association of Airport Executives, and Airports Council International. In Kansas, backing also came from aerostructures manufacturer Spirit AeroSystems and Wichita State University.

GAMA president and CEO Pete Bunce said the legislation has the potential to facilitate new transportation options, create jobs and economic activity, and advance environmental sustainability. “The Advanced Air Mobility Coordination and Leadership Act goes well beyond the good work the FAA is doing to certify and build the operational regulatory framework to introduce electric aircraft into the National Airspace System,” Bunce said, adding such inter-agency and industry coordination would “help realize the enormous potential and broad societal benefits of this rapidly developing and transformative aviation sector.”

“On-demand AAM provides a path for the U.S. to maintain its position as the world leader in civil aviation, and there are significant opportunities for general aviation and our highly skilled workforce, which is why we support this important legislation,” added NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen.