March 12, 2019

Chair Larsen Statement from Hearing on "Looking Forward: Aviation 2050"

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: "Looking Forward: Aviation 2050."

Good morning and thank you to today’s witnesses for joining the Subcommittee’s discussion on “Aviation 2050.”

I want to start today by acknowledging the tragedy of Sunday’s crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 near Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Eight Americans and 21 United Nations employees were among the 157 people who died in the crash.

Chair DeFazio, Committee staff and I are in contact with the National Transportation Safety Board, the Federal Aviation Administration and Boeing about the accident and continue to closely monitor the investigation.

Committee members should know;

First, the NTSB, the U.S. accredited representative and lead for the United States, will assist Ethiopian authorities in this investigation and has people in Ethiopia.

Right now, the most important thing is that relevant agencies are allowed to conduct a careful and thorough investigation.

The Ethiopian Accident Investigations Bureau is the lead on the investigation with support from NTSB and others.

Second, the FAA and Boeing have personnel in Ethiopia to assist in the investigation.

Third, the FAA issued a Continued Airworthiness Notification to the International Community yesterday stating pilots should continue to use Boeing’s operational safety protocols as previously directed following the Lion Air crash, and American carriers must install design changes no later than April 2019.

The Notification does not currently call for the grounding of the 737 MAX fleet.

I encourage all Members to monitor this situation themselves, but staff is available to Members for any questions you have surrounding the investigation and can provide updates as they become available.

With safety as the guiding principle for this Subcommittee, I look forward to spending time today exploring what is on the horizon for aviation and aerospace.

For this Subcommittee, aviation and aerospace 2050 means fostering technological innovation and improving the nation’s competitiveness in the global marketplace.

One of the reasons we are holding this hearing is because we want to set the record of this Subcommittee for the future.

Today’s witnesses represent several of the emerging entrants in the national airspace from unmanned aircraft to passenger air vehicles and supersonic flight.

I am also pleased current users are at the table. You will play a vital role in the discussion on how to safely integrate these new technologies.

As we discuss the exciting possibilities for aviation and aerospace in the next 30 years, Congress must also ensure the U.S. remains the global safety standard in flight.

Last fall, Congress passed the longest Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill in decades.

The bipartisan five-year agreement supports important aerospace jobs across the U.S., key to my home state of Washington, as well as better prepares and diversifies the aviation workforce.

The new law raises the bar on aviation safety, increases the global competitiveness of domestic aerospace manufacturers and suppliers and safely advances drone operations in U.S. airspace.

With the FAA bill as a foundation, the Subcommittee can now look ahead to explore not only what is possible and on the horizon in aviation and aerospace, but what is needed to ensure the United States keeps innovating.

One area where we will continue to see tremendous growth is in unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), or drones.

UAS are flourishing in the skies at a pace we did not imagine ten years ago.

The FAA estimates the use of small hobbyist drones will double in size to more than 3 million units by 2022 and the commercial drone fleet will quadruple to approximately 450,000 units in that same timeframe.[1]  

There is no denying the extensive societal and commercial benefits of unmanned aircraft and their applications.

Drones are used to perform critical infrastructure inspections of bridges and railroads and assist in recovery efforts following natural disasters and wildfires.

With new and advanced operations aiming to take flight, several issues need to be explored.

Inherent in the growth of this technology are the risks to critical assets, like airports.

While we want UAS integration to be efficient, we first must ensure it is safe.

The FAA reauthorization bill includes a robust title on UAS to help the commercial drone industry safely thrive, while also addressing the complexities of integration into U.S. airspace.

Paramount to any comprehensive regulatory framework for drone operations is the development and implementation of the FAA’s remote identification rule.

Without a reliable mechanism to remotely identify and track drones, successful and advanced UAS operations will be nearly impossible.

The U.S. aviation economy cannot risk domestic companies going abroad for testing, development and deployment if this rule is not in place.

There are lessons to be learned from the FAA’s efforts to integrate drones to keep the agency ahead of the curve when it comes to future entrants.

I look forward to exploring these topics with today’s witnesses.

Further, passenger air vehicle concepts will continue to expand and have many potential benefits to communities like reducing traffic congestion.

These vehicles can reduce demand on structurally compromised roads and bridges by carrying commuters through the air, at low-altitudes.

Because of the advancements in technology, materials and manufacturing, supersonic aircraft are on the horizon.

These flights can cut trans-oceanic traveling times in half, supporting passengers and international business.

The United States does not yet have the regulatory framework to allow supersonic flight. Congress must stay ahead of the curve or this may lead to missed opportunities.

One question you might answer in today’s testimony is how is this different from what is currently available?

Foreign airlines are already investing in a U.S. supersonic aircraft company.

Last year’s FAA reauthorization directs the agency to exercise leadership in the creation of federal regulations and standards relating to the certification and safe and efficient operation of civil supersonic aircraft.

The FAA says it will initiate two rulemaking activities on civil supersonic aircraft. Congress must ensure these initiatives stay on track.

I look forward to hearing from today’s witness about the potential benefits of supersonic transport and challenges we must address to ensure the safe and appropriate integration of this technology.

With timely input from new entrants and legacy users, U.S. aviation will be able to tailor products and services to better meet growing passenger demands and address local challenges, such as noise and greenhouse gas emissions. 

Two weeks ago, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee held a hearing about pragmatic solutions to address the impacts of climate change, as well as the aviation industry’s role in these efforts.

The aviation industry has already committed to improving fuel efficiency by 1.5 percent per year, which began in 2010, achieving carbon neutral growth starting next year and cutting net carbon dioxide emissions by 50 percent by 2050.

I have had the chance to visit a few companies in my district at the forefront of innovative, energy efficient aviation technology.

For example, Zunum Aero in Bothell, Washington is developing hybrid electric aircraft capable of flying up to 12 people between 350 and 500 miles. The company aims to bring the aircraft to market as soon as 2022.

Zunum projects its electric propulsion prototype will cut community and cabin noise by an estimated 75 percent and emissions by 80 percent.[2]

Emerging technological advances in U.S. aviation are only possible if Congress invests in and supports the next generation of engineers, mechanics and innovators.

Unfortunately, the U.S. is not keeping pace with growing demands for talented individuals to work in STEM fields.

Part of global competitiveness means ensuring a robust pipeline of talent.

According to the Boston Consulting Group, there are 25,000 unfilled STEM jobs in Washington state alone.

Last year's FAA bill includes a comprehensive workforce development title, including my provision to create a new task force to come up with ways to encourage high school students to enroll in aviation manufacturing, maintenance and engineering apprenticeships.

The bill also creates two new grant programs to support pilot education and recruit aviation maintenance workers.

Improving access to workforce training and preparing students to succeed is an all-around win for employers, job seekers and the aviation and aerospace sectors.

U.S. innovation is the backbone of the nation’s economy and culture.

Aviation 2050 is the next chapter in our leadership in this field.

Communities have already seen and experienced the significant impact of emerging technologies and must prepare for what is to come.

The future of U.S. aviation and aerospace industries is bright. Congress must play an important role to ensure the FAA takes the steps outlined today in a timely manner, so U.S. companies can continue to innovate and remain globally competitive.

Again, thank you to today’s witnesses. I look forward to this discussion.



[1] FAA Aerospace Forecast Report Fiscal Years 2018 to 2038: Unmanned Aircraft Systemsavailable at