July 13, 2022

Chairs DeFazio, Larsen Statements from Hearing on State of General Aviation

Washington, D.C. — The following are opening remarks, as prepared for delivery, from Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Chair of the Subcommittee on Aviation Rick Larsen (D-WA) during today’s hearing titled, “The State of General Aviation.” 

Videos of DeFazio and Larsen’s opening statements are here and here

More information on the hearing can be found here.

Chair DeFazio:
Thank you, Chair Larsen, for holding this hearing today examining the different segments of the general aviation industry, including general aviation service, safety, sustainability efforts, and manufacturing.

According to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, in 2019 more than 65 percent of flights were conducted for business and public services and more than 90 percent of the approximately 220,000 civil aircraft registered were for general aviation. As such, we must continue to invest in much needed infrastructure that will allow for this sector of the aviation industry to continue operating safely, sustainably, and responsibly, for those on board and those who live and work in general aviation communities.

To this effort, we included in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill over $20 billion for infrastructure grants at airports across the country, with $2.5 billion of those funds going to non-primary commercial service and general aviation airports. These robust investments will allow for a safer and more seamless experience for passengers at these airports. However, more could be done. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill—while a historic, once in a generation investment­—is only a dent in what needs to be an ongoing investment in our nation’s airports. 

As for safety, according to the National Transportation Safety Board, general aviation has the highest aviation accident rates within civil aviation. Between 2000 and 2018, there were 3,647 fatal accidents, with a majority of those accidents occurring from pilot error. Over the course of my time in Congress, safety has been the cornerstone of my tenure. From ensuring the enforcement of pilot training requirements to improving and reforming certification rules, we have worked diligently to update and solidify safety standards. Thus, I am interested to hear from this panel on how the general aviation sector has improved its track record over the past few decades, and what improvements still need to be made, whether through the adoption of new equipment and technologies, updated training requirements, or policy recommendations.

Finally, we cannot ignore the impact that aviation has on the environment and our surrounding communities. The general aviation community—largely through piston-engine aircraft—is one of the last remaining sectors to still use leaded fuel—a substance we know can cause harm to those exposed to it. So much so we phased it out of cars in 1996. Now while we can’t compare apples to oranges, we must continue to commit ourselves to finding alternatives to leaded fuel, whether it be through new fuels themselves or new technologies. I look forward to hearing about the progress of the Eliminate Aviation Gasoline Lead Emissions—or EAGLE, Initiative—an initiative to permit both new and existing general aviation aircraft to operate lead-free, without compromising aviation safety and the economic and broader public benefits of general aviation.

Moreover, as we work towards reducing carbon emissions among major air carriers, we must also not overlook general aviation aircraft. Unfortunately, as mentioned before, not all types of aircraft run on the same engines and thus can’t use the same fuel. As such, I’d like to hear today’s witnesses discuss their ideas on how their members plan to utilize sustainable aviation fuels and other technologies to reduce carbon emissions in the general aviation community. 

I look forward to hearing from the witnesses on these important issues. I yield back.
Chair Larsen:
Good morning and welcome to today’s Aviation Subcommittee hearing titled “The State of General Aviation.”

In my home state of Washington and across the country, general aviation (GA) means well-paying jobs and is key to long-term economic growth. 

A recent study found the GA industry supported an estimated $247 billion in economic output and 1.2 million jobs in the U.S. in 2018.[1]

However, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the industry to face several challenges, including workforce reductions, supply chain disruptions and other issues.

To help put GA back on the right track, Congress took several steps to ensure pandemic relief protects U.S. aviation jobs and keeps supply chains moving.

For instance, the Aviation Manufacturing Jobs Protection Program, which Rep. Estes and I introduced in August 2020 and was included in the American Rescue Plan, protected or saved 3,154 highly skilled, well-paying aviation manufacturing jobs in my state and more than 30,000 jobs nationwide.

However, Congress can and must do more to better prepare the GA sector for future disruptions.

Over the weekend, I attended the Tarkio Air Show with Ranking Member Sam Graves and Ranking Member Garret Graves, which provided some helpful insights into the priorities of GA operators and companies.

Today’s witnesses represent a cross-section of the GA industry, including aircraft owners and pilots, helicopters, manufacturers, state aviation agencies, small airports and business aviation interests.

I look forward to hearing more about how Congress can support safety and innovation in this growing industry. 

While the U.S. economy is on the move, the GA sector, like many other industries, is facing workforce challenges to meet the growing demands of the flying public.

Congress has an opportunity to build on progress made in the 2018 FAA reauthorization law and invest in future general aviation operators, technicians and manufacturers.

The 2018 reauthorization law included several workforce development provisions to improve the recruitment of young people and women to careers in the aviation industry.

In March, the FAA’s Women in Aviation Advisory Board submitted its report entitled “Breaking Barriers: Flight Plan for the Future”, and I plan to use the report’s recommendations and others from aviation stakeholders to build a framework for diversifying the aviation workforce.

The 2018 law also created the Sec. 625 Aviation Workforce Development Grant programs to invest in, recruit and inspire the future aviation workforce.

I am working to develop legislation to increase funding for this initiative and expand eligibility to include aviation manufacturing, to help build the U.S. aviation workforce to meet current and future demands.

One issue I heard from GA stakeholders at the Tarkio Air Show is the mounting workforce issues at the FAA, which are creating backlogs in the rulemaking and regulatory processes. 

GA stakeholders are also concerned the agency’s staffing shortages, and the subsequent lack of institutional knowledge, may hinder U.S. leadership in global aviation.

I look forward to hearing from today’s witnesses on how Congress can help improve FAA staffing and reduce any negative impacts on the agency’s regulatory and rulemaking processes.

To support the growth of the GA sector, Congress must create a regulatory framework that prioritizes safety, invests in the necessary infrastructure, and helps to make communities globally competitive well into the 2050s and beyond. 

Over the last two years, this subcommittee heard from several stakeholders about U.S. aviation innovation and how emerging airspace entrants and technologies, such as advanced air mobility (AAM), can offer potential societal, safety and environmental benefits.

Congress has taken concrete steps to help make these concepts a reality. 

As we move into the 2023 FAA reauthorization process, Congress must evaluate the role AAM will play in the GA sector and what needs must be met to safely integrate these vehicles into U.S. airspace.

The GA sector has also committed to addressing the industry’s contributions to climate change. 

In recent years, the development of electric and hybrid-powered aircraft are among efforts to reduce carbon and noise emissions.

For example, Arlington Municipal Airport in my hometown of Arlington, Washington, is home to Eviation, an aviation company which is developing the nine-seat, all-electric “Alice” aircraft.

The GA industry is also working to adopt alternative fuel sources to reduce carbon emissions from air travel, such as the development and distribution of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

There is also the looming issue for the GA sector related to the transition to lead-free aviation fuel.

I look forward to hearing more about how Congress can assist in ensuring a safe transition to lead-free fuels for GA.

While the U.S. economy is on the move and the future of aviation remains bright, GA still faces several issues that must be addressed.

Today’s witnesses will provide much needed insight on the GA industry’s priorities and how Congress can be a better partner in these efforts. 

Thank you, and I look forward to tackling these issues in a collaborative manner.

[1] General Aviation's Contributions to the U.S. Economy, 2018 Price Waterhouse Coopers Study, on behalf of Aircraft Electronics Association (AEA), Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), Helicopter Association International