The House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee approved three bills that are designed to prepare for the future of aerospace by addressing workforce, the emergence of advanced air mobility (AAM), and drone infrastructure. Passed out of the committee on Thursday were the National Center for the Advancement of Aviation Act of 2021 (H.R.3482), Advanced Aviation Infrastructure Modernization (AAIM) Act (H.R.6270), and Drone Infrastructure Inspection Grant Act (H.R.5315).
“These bipartisan bills enable communities to plan for the safe integration of emerging entrants into the U.S. airspace and existing transportation networks, foster greater collaboration, and technological innovation, and prepare the workforce to meet the demands of the aviation economy,” said House aviation subcommittee chairman Rick Larsen (D-Washington).
The National Center for Advancement of Aviation Act would establish a federally chartered, private entity to support and promote the civil aviation and aerospace workforce. The bill calls for the provision of resources for scholarships, apprenticeships, curriculum development, and other outreach efforts. The center further would serve as an education research repository and as a national independent forum for collaboration on workforce issues.
The committee highlighted the need for stepped-up efforts, noting that the FAA is predicting that more than 50 percent of the current science and engineering workforce will soon hit retirement age.
Meanwhile, the AAIM bill establishes a two-year pilot program to invest $25 million in competitive grants for vertiport and related infrastructure development.
Noting that AAM has the potential to reduce traffic congestion on roads and improve mobility options for commuters and cargo, the committee said the grants are designed to keep pace and help states and localities prepare for the growing sector.
Further, the drone act seeks to invest $200 million in a drone infrastructure inspection grant program, as well as a drone education and workforce training grant program to support the inspection, maintenance, and repair of necessary infrastructure.
This is in preparation for the growing use of drones, the committee said. “Drones ranging in size from handheld to those weighing more than 50,000 pounds are becoming increasingly common in our skies. The FAA projects that the recreational drone fleet will grow to nearly 1.5 million units by 2024 and the commercial fleet will increase to more than 800,000 units by that same year.”
The bills, particularly the workforce center and AAIM initiatives, have received strong backing from the industry.
“By passing the National Center for the Advancement of Aviation Act and the Advanced Aviation Infrastructure Modernization Act, the Committee signaled its support of advanced air mobility innovation and implementation, as well as its commitment to fostering and expanding our nation’s skilled aviation workforce,” agreed Karen Huggard, managing director of legislative affairs and industry relation for the National Air Transportation Association, adding that the bills address some of the industry’s most pressing concerns and chart “a comprehensive path forward for future aviation professionals and supporting our industry’s growth and progress.”
NBAA agreed, noting its AAM roundtable has strongly endorsed the vertiport grant initiative. Association president and CEO Ed Bolen praised the lawmakers for “their strong support for the advancement of these pioneering on-demand aviation technologies.”
He added that NBAA further would continue to advocate for the legislation developing the industry’s workforce.