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Ranking Members Sam Graves & Garret Graves Statements from Hearing on the State of General Aviation in the U.S.

Opening remarks, as prepared, of Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO) and Subcommittee on Aviation Ranking Member Garret Graves (R-LA) from today’s hearing entitled, “The State of General Aviation”:

Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO):

Thank you, Chair Larsen and Ranking Member Graves, and thank you to our witnesses.

I had the pleasure of meeting with many of today’s witnesses at the General Aviation Town Hall we hosted this past weekend in my hometown of Tarkio, Missouri.  As I made clear to many of you in Tarkio, now is the right time to be having conversations about the challenges the general aviation community faces, especially as we approach next year’s FAA reauthorization bill.  Only by working together can we make certain that general aviation thrives for future generations of Americans to enjoy.

For those who might not be as familiar with this industry, the general aviation fleet is comprised of business jets, fixed-wing piston engine aircraft, rotorcraft, lighter-than-air, and light sport aircraft.  That’s a diverse set of aircraft, each with its own varying levels of pilot training and certification.

General aviation is much more diverse than pilots taking joyrides or people flying in corporate jets.  The general aviation community includes rural and remote puddle jumpers, crop dusters, air ambulances, aerial firefighting, air tourism, living history flights, and more.

General aviation is where all aviators, even airline pilots, get their start and build their experience.

And general aviation manufacturing has paved the way for the modern-day jetliner through advancements in engineering and technology. 

Put simply, without general aviation, there simply would be no aviation industry.  It is the common denominator shared by all aviators.  It underpins the success of the modern-day aerospace system as we know it.  Our Nation’s aviation industry cannot thrive unless our Nation’s general aviation community also thrives.

As such, Congress has a vested interest in making certain that general aviation remains robust and healthy.

From ensuring student pilots make the leap to private pilot, to educating grade-school students about well-paying careers in aviation, to ensuring airspace access in rural communities, to improving aviation safety, we must ensure that the general aviation community has the tools and resources that it needs to flourish for decades to come.

Here in Congress, the General Aviation Caucus – one of the largest caucuses – plays a key role in tracking the needs of the general aviation community and raising awareness on key issues.  I appreciate the Caucus’ work and know its members will remain engaged on these issues.

I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today about how we can work together to address the challenges the general aviation community faces.  Thanks again, Mr. Chairman, for holding today’s critically important hearing.

Subcommittee on Aviation Ranking Member Garret Graves (R-LA):

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  I want to thank you for having this hearing today, and I want to thank the witnesses for being here.

Like Chairman Larsen, I had the chance to join the general aviation community at the Tarkio, Missouri airshow over the weekend.  I enjoyed that event and am looking forward to today’s discussion.

General aviation is a critical part of our Nation’s economy, particularly in rural areas like Tarkio.  But GA faces many challenges, including preserving our existing capabilities while safely incorporating technology into the National Airspace System.

As the Chairman mentioned, we are already seeing the FAA struggle from an organizational perspective, experience perspective, and regulatory perspective.  I am very concerned as to how these struggles will impact commercial travel, general aviation, and how these struggles may potentially thwart or impede the development and deployment of new aviation advancements in the United States.  

An objective we all share is to incorporate drones and advanced air mobility into our National Airspace System while maintaining the amazing record of safety that we have in the aviation industry.  Air travel continues to be the safest mode of transportation in the United States, and we must continue to maintain that gold standard.

The United States has an incredibly robust network of GA airports and heliports that touch virtually every American.  We would be hard pressed to find a member in Congress that does not have a desire to incorporate new technologies into the aviation system.  In fact, the Houma-Terrebonne Airport, which is in my district in Louisiana and is a base for much of the offshore energy development in the Gulf of Mexico, is aggressively moving forward to incorporate both AAM and UAS into their capabilities.  And with Advanced Aviation Systems and Advanced Air Mobility operations on the horizon, we are trying to plan accordingly for these new entrants.

We must continue to contemplate what the regulatory structure looks like for Advanced Air Mobility, but we must also think about AAM’s infrastructure needs and how general aviation is going to be impacted.  Brainstorming and problem solving is pivotal to the safe and successful operation of AAM, and of course, to ensure that the United States maintains its global leadership role in aviation.

Thankfully, last month the House passed two critical bills in this area, the Advanced Air Mobility Coordination and Leadership Act, and the Advanced Aviation Infrastructure Modernization Act, and we are hopeful that the Senate takes a similar path and gets these to the President’s desk as soon as possible.

Future regulations must contemplate new entrants into the market, and I am looking forward to hearing each of our witnesses’ thoughts about the safe integration of those systems into the NAS.  

Regarding AAM and drones, I also want to hear your thoughts on issues that are either of interest or concern to see how we can start bridging the gap between the general aviation industry and these growing industries.

Mr. Chairman, I want to thank you again for holding this hearing today and I look forward to hearing from our witnesses.

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