April 27, 2021

Chair Larsen Statement from Hearing on Innovation in U.S. Aerospace

Washington, D.C. — The following are opening remarks, as prepared for delivery, from Chair of the Subcommittee on Aviation Rick Larsen (D-WA) during today’s hearing titled, “The Leading Edge: Innovation in U.S. Aerospace.” Video of Larsen’s opening statement is here. More information on the hearing can be found here.

Chair Larsen:

Good morning and welcome to today’s witnesses joining the Aviation Subcommittee’s hearing titled “The Leading Edge: Innovation in U.S. Aerospace.”

This is a long overdue discussion to explore promising opportunities for U.S. aerospace, including emerging airspace entrants and new aviation technologies with potential societal, safety, and environmental benefits.

Today’s hearing is also a great opportunity to examine challenges in making these concepts a reality, and what Congress and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) can do to ensure the safe and efficient integration of new entrants and technologies into the National Airspace System (NAS).

Fostering innovation is one of my top priorities as Chair because it will help bolster U.S. jobs and grow the nation’s leadership in the aerospace industry.

Today’s witnesses represent a range of emerging airspace entrants, from small unmanned aircraft systems to electric aircraft and supersonic airplanes.

I am also pleased to have representatives from city and tribal governments at the table to highlight why new airspace entrants and technologies are important to their communities and how to build public acceptance.

Once only seen in science fiction or dropping Judy and Elroy off at school, “flying cars” and “air taxis” will soon be a reality, with over 70 advanced air mobility (AAM) concepts in development.

Electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) vehicles could reduce traffic congestion and improve mobility options, particularly in dense urban environments.

However, Congress and the FAA must consider infrastructure, how new entrants will be integrated into an already busy U.S. airspace, and impacts on local communities.

To that end, I would like to welcome Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to today’s panel. Mayor Garcetti, I know that the City of Los Angeles is a leader in helping get AAM options deployed. I am interested in hearing more about the City’s efforts to prepare for AAM operations in the region, including accounting for community views, ensuring equitable access across the City, and promoting sustainability.

New advancements in aerospace technologies are arriving as U.S. aviation works to address pressing challenges, such greenhouse gas emissions and aircraft noise. 

Which is why I am pleased to welcome Mr. Roei Ganzarski, CEO of magniX, an electric propulsion system manufacturer leading the charge on the development of more sustainable and energy-efficient aircraft.

magniX is another in a long line of innovators in aviation that are based in Washington state, in this case in Everett in my district.

Mr. Ganzarski, I look forward to your thoughts on how the federal government can help grow U.S. manufacturing in this increasingly competitive space and help to meet environmental goals. 

Another area of tremendous growth is in UAS, or drones.

The FAA projects the use of drones will reach up over 2 million units by 2024, combining both private and commercial use.

Drones are used today to perform critical infrastructure inspections, assist in recovery efforts following natural disasters, and deliver critical medical supplies during the pandemic.

Mr. Grimsley, I look forward to learning more about the Choctaw Nation’s ongoing project, under the FAA’s BEYOND program, to test advanced drone operations and analyze the impact of this technology on tribal and rural communities.

Inherent in the growth of new entrants are the potential risks posed to existing airspace users and people and critical assets on the ground.

In December 2020, the FAA issued two long-awaited UAS final rules, which took effect last week: one requiring the remote identification (ID) of UAS and another permitting more routine UAS operations over people under certain conditions.

Mr. Bry, I would like to hear more about the drone industry’s reaction to these new rules.

Recent advancements in propulsion technology, materials, and domestic manufacturing have also made supersonic flight more of a reality.

Traveling faster than the speed of sound, these flights are projected to significantly reduce trans-oceanic travel times and open new gateways to support international commerce.

However, challenges persist to full deployment of supersonic flight. Most notably, the lack of internationally recognized certification, noise, or emission standards for supersonic aircraft.

In response to the 2018 FAA reauthorization law, the FAA recently issued a final rule to help facilitate supersonic flight testing and the safe development of such aircraft.

We are joined today by Mr. Blake Scholl, CEO of Boom Supersonic, a U.S. manufacturer at the forefront of developing supersonic passenger aircraft. Mr. Scholl, I am interested in learning more about Boom’s XB-1 concept, your experience with navigating the current regulatory process for supersonic flight, and what is needed both in the U.S. and internationally to realize your vision.

The Subcommittee is also joined by Mr. Pierre Harter with the National Institute for Aviation Research at Wichita State University, a leader in aerospace research and development. Mr. Harter, I look forward to your thoughts on the importance of federal investment in research on these technologies and ways to support the next generation of aviation innovators, scientists, and engineers.

As the nation works toward long-term economic recovery, this Subcommittee will continue its forward-looking agenda on in the future of U.S. aerospace, and how Congress and the FAA can ensure the United States remains the global aviation leader.

Congress, the new Administration, and the aerospace industry and workforce must work together as we embark on this next generation of U.S. aerospace and ensure that as nascent operations and technologies are integrated into the complex airspace system, the safety of all who fly and those on the ground remain the top priority.

Thank you again to today’s witnesses. I look forward to our discussion.