Rockefeller on Competitive U.S. Aviation Industry

July 18, 2012

JDR Head ShotWASHINGTON, D.C.—Prepared opening statement of Senator John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV, Chairman, at the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security hearing on "The Global Competitiveness of the U.S. Aviation Industry: Addressing Competition Issues to Maintain U.S. Leadership in the Aerospace Market."

"Since 1998, when I became the senior Democratic Member of the Aviation Subcommittee, and now as the Chairman of the Commerce Committee, I have been a strong supporter of the aviation industry because of the critical role it plays in our nation’s success. 

"By any measure, the aviation sector has a substantial impact on our economy.  The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) estimates civil aviation supports more than 10 million jobs nationally and is responsible for more than 5 percent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).  It is also a leading source of U.S. exports, contributing over $75 billion toward the nation’s trade balance through the sale of civilian aircraft engines, equipment and parts to foreign entities.

"Just as important, aviation plays a critical role in facilitating our nation’s commerce by connecting all regions of our country together, and our businesses to the global marketplace.  

"It is the mode of transportation that makes it possible for consumers to order products online and receive them in the mail the next day, pharmaceutical companies to deliver critical drugs or devices anywhere overnight, and for businesses to send employees to the other side of the globe in a day.

"In my home state of West Virginia, we don’t have to look very far to see the economic impact of the aviation sector.  In Bridgeport, the Mid-Atlantic Aerospace Complex (MAAC) supports more than 1,000 people in aviation-related jobs in the region, which collectively have an economic impact of $52 million annually.  In Ravenswood, Constellium Rolled Products produces aluminum rolled products for airframes.  Constellium is Jackson County’s largest employer, with over 1,000 workers, and just signed a multi-year agreement to continue production worth about $2 billion.  In Beckley, Raleigh County Memorial Airport has spawned an enormously successful business park at the facility.  

"Of course, one of the main reasons these businesses chose to locate in West Virginia in the first place is our strong aviation system.  Commercial air service is a linchpin for economic development in small communities.  One of the key factors businesses look for when investing in a community is its quality of air service.  It provides a vital connection to the global marketplace from which they would otherwise be isolated. 

"For these reasons I have fought to maintain a robust Essential Air Service (EAS) program and fully fund the Airport Improvement Program.  Air service and airports are economic engines that attract critical new jobs and development opportunities to small communities like those in my home state of West Virginia.  

"I believe the aviation industry is fundamental to our nation’s long-term economic health, and that it is important for us to take the measures needed to make certain the U.S. aviation sector remains competitive.  

"We need to continue to push the FAA to accelerate the implementation of NextGen.  We need to make serious commitments to the basic research and development that will help our businesses maintain their technological edge.  And, perhaps most importantly, we need to invest in our workforce.  It is our people that are the industry’s most important asset.  We need to make sure they have the training they need and that we are fostering the next generation of scientists, engineers, and mathematicians.

"America is the cradle of aviation, and I do not want to see our nation abandon its global leadership in this sector.

"I want to thank our witnesses for being here today and I look forward to their testimony."