What is the Future of Aerospace: From the Commission on the Future of the U.S. Aerospace Industry

What is the Future of Aerospace? From the Commission on the Future of the U.S. Aerospace Industry By Fred Workley Fred Workley The Commission on the Future of the Aerospace Industry has issued a final report. The report outlines...


  • The nation needs a national aerospace policy;
  • There needs to be a government-wide framework that implements this policy;
  • The Administration and Congress need to remove prohibitive legal and regulatory barriers that impede this sector's growth and continually seek to level the international playing field; and
  • Global U.S. aerospace leadership can only be achieved through investments in our future, including our industrial base, workforce, long-term research, and national infrastructure.

2. Air transportation
To develop an air transportation system that simultaneously meets U.S. civil aviation, national defense, and homeland security needs, national leadership is needed. Today, leadership and responsibility are dispersed among federal, state, and local organizations that impact the aviation community. Only strong federal leadership, aimed at a national objective, can sustain a transformational effort.

The core of an integrated transportation system will be a common advanced communications, navigation, and surveillance infrastructure and modern operational procedures.

The Commission also calls for a new approach to the regulation and certification of aircraft technology, processes, and procedures. It recommends that the FAA should shift focus from product to process certification.

This transformation requires:

  • Rapid deployment of a new, highly automated air traffic management system;
  • Accelerated introduction of new aerospace systems by shifting from product to process certification and providing implementation support; and
  • Streamlined new airport and runway development.

3. Space
The Commission concludes that the nation will have to be a space-faring nation in order to be the global leader in the 21st century - "our freedom, mobility, and quality of life will depend on it. America must exploit and explore space to assure national and planetary security, economic benefit and scientific discovery. At the same time, the United States must overcome the obstacles that jeopardize its ability to sustain leadership in space."

Government and investors must become more sensitive to commercial opportunities. Public space travel may be a viable marketplace in the future. It holds the potential for increasing launch demand and improvements in space launch reliability and reusability. It could lead to a robust space transportation industry with "airline-like operations." The government could help encourage this by allowing private citizens to fly on the Space Shuttle.

The Commission recommends that the United States create a space imperative. The DoD, NASA, and industry must partner in innovative aerospace technologies, especially in the areas of propulsion and power. This will enhance national security, provide economic growth, accelerate exploration, and open up new opportunities for public space travel and other commercial endeavors.

4. National security
Aerospace capabilities and the supporting defense industrial base are fundamental to U.S. economic and national security, according to the Commission. While the nation's defense industrial base is strong today, the nation is at risk if there is no policy that supports essential aerospace capabilities.

The Commission recommends that the nation adopt a policy that invigorates and sustains the aerospace industrial base. This policy must include:

  • Procurement policies which include prototyping, spiral development, and other techniques to promote design and production skills;
  • Removing barriers to defense procurement of commercial products and services;
  • Propagating defense technology into the commercial sector;
  • Removing barriers to international sales of defense products;
  • Sustaining critical technologies that are not likely to be sustained by the commercial sector; and
  • Stable funding for core capabilities.

5. Government
The Commission concludes that the government must ensure that the nation has a healthy aerospace industry to meet the security and economic needs of the country and compete successfully in the international marketplace. The government needs to exert leadership and prioritize and promote aerospace by managing its activities efficiently and effectively to accomplish national objectives.

Government processes for policy, planning, and budgeting, and for developing and acquiring aerospace products and services are vestiges of the Cold War. And a concerted effort is needed to streamline these processes. It will require an integrated federal planning, budgeting, and program management process; an integrated government science, technology, and acquisition process; and an environment that fosters rather than impedes innovation in the aerospace sector.

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