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Graves Statement from Hearing on Innovation in the U.S. Aerospace Industry

Opening remarks, as prepared, of Subcommittee on Aviation Ranking Member Garret Graves (R-LA) from today’s hearing entitled, “The Leading Edge: Innovation in U.S. Aerospace”:

Mr. Chairman,

About two years ago back in 2019, we had a hearing that you had scheduled called “Aviation 2050” where we were looking at the future of aviation over the next 30 years, to try and depict and project what that would look like and what we would need to do during our time to help facilitate that aviation industry in the United States.

I don’t think any of us anticipated any of the amazing challenges we had during that two-year period. Obviously, the pandemic, the 737 Max, and other challenges in our community. In my home state of Louisiana, we had five named hurricanes just last year.

We can’t rest on our laurels in regard to the aviation future or being able to maintain the top position globally in regard to aviation. We must continue to work to strive to facilitate that innovation and that growth.

Although it is not the title of this hearing, I think “Aviation 2030” maybe perhaps a better title for this hearing, looking at the aerospace innovation we can explore and we can expect to come online over the next decade or so. It seems clear that in the next 10 years aerospace is going to evolve and there will be an increase in the number of drones, the introduction of electric vertical takeoff and landing, reintroduction of civil supersonic aircraft as you noted, expanded use of commercial space transportation vehicles.

Other nations may choose one or two technologies to try to excel at or facilitate in their countries. But in the United States it is our aim, and Mr. Chairman I believe we share this goal, it is our aim and our intention to lead in all of the above technologies. That means making investments upfront, laying the statutory and regulatory foundation for these cutting-edge technologies as was done in the last FAA reauthorization bill. But obviously, we need to hear from these witnesses on what needs even beyond.

In fact, year after year, reauthorization after reauthorization, the committee and FAA have worked to ensure that our foundation is solid and it enables, rather than stifles, innovation and that it is always laid on the bedrock of safety.

For example, last week, rules for UAS remote identification and drone operations over people took effect, which will enable more advanced use of drones.

While these rules do represent a major step forward, we know that a true regulatory foundation for drones must include a way for regular – beyond visual line of sight operations. With these pieces in place, however, it is time to show some progress and reap the benefits of our investment.

The economic and societal benefits of UAS promise to be enormous and industry and communities are quickly finding ways to utilize the foundation that we did lay in these laws. I look forward to hearing from SKYDIO about the great American-made products they are developing, and from the Choctaw Nation about the innovative use of this technology and the drones that they have in place now.

Moving forward, we must take some of the lessons learned from our efforts on drone integration, as the Chairman noted, and apply them to advanced air mobility, supersonic aircraft, and electric aircraft. We need to allow the industry to move forward and the FAA to ensure safety without spending years drafting overly specific regulations.

For example, I am pleased that the FAA has adopted this approach for electric aircraft, utilizing the performance-based part 23 regulations to efficiently measure the safety of proposed electric aircraft.

But more broadly, I am excited by the expansive vision of companies like magniX, which sees a future where aircraft can be both cleaner and less costly to operate, and Boom, which aims to shrink the world and unlock opportunities that are unavailable at subsonic speeds.

To all our witnesses, I want to know where the foundation we’ve laid needs work, and what you need from us to help you build on it. These technologies are not innovation for innovation’s sake, they are going to drive real benefits and improvements in the lives of our constituents and the well-being of our communities. The technology will employ tens of thousands of workers and help stitch together our cities and towns. With the work the subcommittee, our witnesses and the thousands of others like them are doing, American aerospace will remain at the leading edge of our nation’s future and success.

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