During a Senate Aviation Subcommittee hearing on aerospace competitiveness, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) said America needs to interest more young people in aviation careers in order to meet the needs of U.S. aviation employers and maintain U.S. leadership in the global industry. Cantwell also stressed the need for more support for aerospace skills training programs to produce a 21st century-skilled aerospace workforce.
The Airports Council International - North America released the following letter sent to Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell, chairman and South Dakota Sen. John Thune, ranking member of the Aviation Operations, Safety & Subcommittee, which held a hearing on July 18 on "The Global Competitiveness of the U.S. Aviation Industry: Addressing Competition Issues to Maintain U.S. Leadership in the Aerospace Market."
Dear Chairman Cantwell and Ranking Member Thune:
I write regarding today’s subcommittee hearing on “The Global Competitiveness of the U.S. Aviation Industry: Addressing Competition Issues to Maintain U.S. Leadership in the Aerospace Market.” The stated goal of this hearing is to address critical competition issues facing the U.S. aviation industry, including workforce development, regulatory issues, and access to foreign markets. I would suggest that several chairs should have been added to the witness table.
Aviation is about more than airplanes and airlines - and therefore, discussion about the competitiveness of American aviation must include many more voices. Aviation is one of the most technologically complex, highly globalized, and highly regulated industries in this country. And for a number of reasons - including the projection of continued growth in both passenger and cargo traffic, aging and decaying infrastructure in the U.S., reduction of air service, and foreign investments and regulations advantaging the aviation systems in other countries - getting to the heart of increasing American aviation competitiveness is tremendously important.
Yes, airlines are an important part of American aviation. But American aviation also includes the experience of the 730 million passengers who will travel this year, from the second they enter their home airport until they exit in their new destination. It includes the 65 trillion tons of cargo that will fly through our skies - providing American companies with access to world markets, and American consumers with the goods they need. It includes thousands of general aviation aircraft used for transportation to remote communities, emergency medical transportation, aerial firefighting, law enforcement, flight training and agricultural applications. It includes the American airports whose infrastructure provides the critical hubs for all these operations - and who require $80 billion in upgrades by 2015 in order to meet the safety, efficiency and growth needs of their users. It includes the FAA, TSA, and CBP: agencies whose partnership and capabilities are critical to aviation operations and success. And of course, American aviation includes the local communities and businesses that rely on it to spur economic growth, tourism, and rejuvenation as we rebound from the recent recession.
All of these things together are more than an aviation industry - they are an aviation system. And to think of them as dissectible parts - as some do when they look to advance a siloed National Airline Policy - promises to do nothing to advance the whole. Already, changes in the airline industry threaten to reduce service to small and rural communities struggling to turn their economies around. Numerous FAA reauthorizations and last summer’s shutdown, and cost pressures on agency partners operating within the airport, highlight the challenges faced by our federal agency partners. And of course, the recent three-year FAA reauthorization did little to improve the funding instability airports face as they endeavor to make the capital investments needed to support increased passenger loads and larger planes.
The U.S. desperately needs to examine its aviation system, with many of the goals of the committee in mind. But that would only tell half the story. Truly examining competitiveness, and making the long-term decisions and investments this system needs to meet America’s needs and compete globally, will require a National Aviation Policy. This is a multi-stakeholder system, and today’s hearing is not comprehensive. The interests of ALL parties must be considered, not just a single industry. We strongly urge this committee to use this hearing as a starting point - but not as the end. We look forward to the next conversation - and to many more seats at the table.
Airports Council International-North America