The U.S. House aviation subcommittee this week turned its attention to new market entrants, such as drones and eVTOL aircraft, as it considered its position on the pending FAA reauthorization bill. In opening statements before industry testimony on March 30, several lawmakers were heavily critical of the Biden Administration, accusing it of failing to support the emerging advanced air mobility (AAM) sector.
Comparing the newcomers to the U.S. aviation system to runners in a marathon race who can’t find the finish line when signposts are removed after 25 miles, subcommittee chairman Rep. Garret Graves (R-Louisiana) said the industry has been thwarted by its own government. “We don’t have a government that has the processes in place to provide predictability in decision making, or that gets the urgency to certify and integrate these products,” he told the hearing in Washington, D.C.
“After five years, the FAA has certified just one drone,” Graves continued. “We cannot allow these opportunities to be stifled by red tape and requests for more data. We’re going to cede our leadership [in the AAM sector] to other countries.”
Subcommittee ranking minority member Rick Larsen (D-Washington) echoed some of the Republican chair’s critique, calling for an end to “organizational inefficiencies” at the FAA to create the regulatory bandwidth to certify new aircraft and approve access to the national airspace. He characterized the challenge as an opportunity to create some 280,000 jobs in the new sector, while also opening the door to new technology that could significantly cut aviation’s carbon footprint.
The subcommittee of the House’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee heard from eight industry witnesses representing manufacturers and operators of eVTOL aircraft and uncrewed air systems. While their contributions were less politically tinged than those of the elected officials, they urged Congress to give FAA both the mandate and resources to help the AAM sector to fulfill its potential.
Witnesses giving both oral and written testimony included the following Adam Woodworth, CEO of drone maker Wing; Roxana Kennedy, chief of police in Chula Vista, California; Stuart Ginn, medical director of WakeMed Health and Hospitals; Catherine Cahill, director of the Alaska Center of UAS Integration; Kyle Clark, CEO of eVTOL aircraft developer Beta Technologies; JoeBen Bevirt, Joby Aviation’s CEO, Chris Bradshaw, CEO of the Bristow Group, representing the Helicopter Association International; and Clint Harper, an AAM expert and community advocate.