U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene a full committee hearing on Tuesday, April 14, 2015, at 9:30 a.m. entitled, “Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization.”
The first in a series of hearings on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization, the hearing on April 14th will examine key aviation funding and programmatic issues within the broader FAA reauthorization. Subsequent hearings will focus on areas of interest such as manufacturing competitiveness and certification, airport and infrastructure financing, safety and general aviation matters, and air traffic control modernization and reform.
The last multi-year FAA bill, the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, authorized the agency for fiscal years 2011-2015. This hearing and the subcommittee hearings to follow will form the Committee’s record for consideration of the next FAA reauthorization bill.
The Honorable Michael Huerta, Administrator, Federal Aviation Administration
Tuesday, April 14, 2015
**9:30 a.m. (time changed to 9:30 a.m. from 10:00 a.m.)**
Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Full Committee hearing entitled, “Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization.”
This hearing will take place in Russell Senate Office Building, Room 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available at this page.
Chairman John Thune
"Good morning. Today, the Commerce Committee begins a series of hearings on the reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). We are fortunate to have with us the Administrator of the FAA, Michael Huerta.
"Mr. Administrator, I want to thank you for being here to help us kick off our effort to review the programs of the FAA as we move forward on reauthorization legislation.
"Aviation has been and continues to be an essential component of our economy and society. From the crop dusters serving our agricultural heartland to modern jetliners that can connect almost any two points on the planet, the aviation community touches just about every aspect of modern life.
"New frontiers in aviation, such as unmanned aircraft, continually arise and challenge both entrepreneurs and government regulators alike. Air transportation facilitates business and social interaction more and more each year. While the Internet has allowed the world to connect virtually, it is often aviation that allows the world to connect in reality.
"At the center of our vibrant aviation community lies the FAA, which has played a critical role in ensuring that flying is safe for those in the air and on the ground.
"Although it can be hard to compare the different modes of transportation, most experts agree that aviation remains far and away the safest way to travel. This is truly remarkable given the inherent complexities of flight and the immense size of our aviation system. On average, in any given hour, there may be as many as 60,000 people airborne over the U.S. That is nearly the population of Rapid City, which is South Dakota’s second biggest city. So the entire aviation community, including the FAA, should be proud of this safety record.
"Of course, we must not become complacent, as there is always room for improvement. I believe that we have in the audience today family members of some of the victims of the Colgan Air tragedy in Buffalo just six years ago this February. Their efforts to improve aviation safety have had a meaningful impact in the years after that horrible tragedy, and I admire their tireless efforts on behalf of the traveling public.
"Our nation’s air traffic control system has served us well for many years, but it is still based on equipment, concepts, and procedures that date back decades. In recent years, the FAA has tried to modernize the system by moving to satellite navigation and more automation. But these efforts have cost many billions of dollars with not as much progress as we all would like to see.
"The Government Accountability Office and DOT’s Inspector General have pointed out many shortcomings with respect to FAA’s efforts to modernize our air traffic control system.
"Some of the problems seem to be deep rooted and cultural in nature. Nearly eight years ago, the IG noted that implementing the Next Generation Air Traffic Control System – or NextGen – would be an extraordinarily complex, high-risk effort. That looks like a gross understatement, as we are still many years away from full implementation, with many more billions yet to be spent. Some have suggested that the current governance model for air traffic control is ill-suited for NextGen.
"In that regard, I applaud Chairman Shuster, of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, on his consideration of new approaches that may yield better results and deliver the promised benefits of NextGen. So I look forward to discussing options for reform this morning.
"No matter who is in charge of the operation of the air traffic control system, airports are an integral part of our aviation system. Whatever path we take this year, we are sure to debate options for airport funding and how to maintain equitable access to funding for airports of all sizes. Ours is truly a National Airspace System, a system of airports and air traffic control infrastructure that ties communities, big and small, together – not to mention the vast users from private pilots, commercial jetliners, military users and even space tourism.
"As important as the safety standards and procedures for operating in the nation’s airspace are, so too are the standards and certification processes that ensure safety of aircraft in the system.
"If the U.S. is to remain at the forefront of aerospace manufacturing and innovation, the FAA must be able to review and approve new aircraft in a timely and effective manner. Cutting edge technologies, from fly-by-wire airliners to unmanned aircraft systems, need to get to market quickly with FAA’s gold standard safety certification.
"Again, I thank the Administrator for being here to discuss these and other important aviation issues.
"The FAA has a lot of work ahead and this Committee is in a position to help the agency be the best it can be in the years ahead. I am looking forward to working with Ranking Member Nelson, as well as Senators Ayotte and Cantwell, on this important legislation.
"I now turn to my colleague, Senator Nelson, for his opening remarks."
Witness Panel 1
The Honorable Michael P. HuertaAdministratorFederal Aviation Administration