Cantwell Opening Remarks at Aviation Technologies Hearing: “We Must Seize on the Opportunity with this FAA Reauthorization to Strengthen America’s Competitiveness in Aerospace”

March 29, 2023

Senator says “this is about winning a competitive race for the future”


WASHINGTON, D.C. –  Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, delivered the following remarks at a hearing on advancing next generation aviation technologies in the next FAA reauthorization legislation. The Committee heard testimony from Kevin Welsh, Executive Director, Office of Environment and Energy, Federal Aviation Administration; Robert A. Pearce, Associate Administrator, NASA Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate; Jon Gordon, Co-Founder, General Counsel and Head of Partnerships and Government Affairs, Universal Hydrogen; Dr. Val Miftakhov, Founder and CEO, ZeroAvia; Arjan Hegeman, Advanced Technology Leader, GE Aerospace; Ben Lieberman, Senior Fellow, Competitive Enterprise Institute; and Marc Scribner, Senior Transportation Policy Analyst, Reason Foundation. Read the witness testimonies and watch the hearing here.

Senator Cantwell’s Opening Remarks as Delivered – VIDEO

We are having a hearing this morning on advancing the next generation of aviation technologies. Before I start with my statement, I just want to make a point to again thank the Chair of the Subcommittee for all her hard work and chairing these series of hearings that we’re having. And obviously, my colleague the Ranking Member, for our discussions. It’s our hope that during the recess members will submit their ideas about things they would like included in an FAA reauthorization bill. We may not be done with all of our work, but we certainly want to use this period during the recess to surface the ideas that people want to see included and continue that discussion. 

This morning, the hearing is focused on the United States’ leadership in sustainable aviation technologies and innovation that will define the next chapter, generation, of commercial airplanes. And I believe, critical export opportunities for the United States.

This is about winning a competitive race for the future.

And to meet these new challenges, we must enhance research partnerships, expertise between the FAA and NASA, and FAA standards on certification of novel aviation technologies.

We will hear from Associate Administrator Bob Pearce about NASA’s work to make this a reality.

Today’s research will get Americans moving faster. And I’m excited that – this year – NASA will conduct the first flight of its new low-boom supersonic aircraft. 

Moving America one step closer to supersonic air travel is what the Commerce Committee envisioned when they authorized this program to begin with.

NASA’s Sustainable Flight Demonstrator project will disrupt traditional airframe technologies through novel wing designs and shape the next generation single-aisle airliner. This has real-world commercial outcomes for America’s competitiveness: single aisle aircraft are projected to represent 70% of the global airline fleet by [2041].

Sustainable aviation is good for the bottom line, enabling airlines to save money in operating costs and maximize fuel efficiencies.

The FAA Continuous Low Energy, Emissions, and Noise (CLEEN) program will save $36 billion gallons of fuel by 2050, with savings about $90 billion dollars for airlines. These emission cuts are equal to removing 3 million cars from the road between 2020 and 2050.

We should triple funding, in my opinion, for CLEEN and its next phase of focusing on zero-emission aircraft innovation.

Start-ups and local government should have access to Federal technology investments. Yesterday, Snohomish County in my state, along with the Washington State University, announced plans for an Applied Research and Development Center to produce and store sustainable aviation fuel.

U.S.-based projects like these are why it was important in the Inflation Reduction Act to secure funding for developing low-emission aviation technologies, known as FAST-TECH, and build the infrastructure needed to scale up sustainable aviation fuel, SAF, and I’m glad to see that program is getting launched this year. FAA’s Kevin Welsh will tell us how we can expand its impact in this reauthorization bill.

Since the beginning of the CLEEN program, GE has partnered with the FAA to introduce technologies like LEAP, a family of engines powering today’s narrow-body airplanes. Three out of the four aircraft departures today across the globe are powered by these engines built by GE and its joint venture. So I am glad they are here today to talk about that. 

This kind of success does not go unnoticed in the information age. And we must work harder to keep America’s competitive edge.

We will hear from Arjan Hegeman about GE’s work to develop more efficient open-fan engines. And one day, these propulsion systems will power commercial airline flights around the world.

The FAA authorization bill, I believe, can bolster research and development in innovation technologies. But there’s also a lot going on in the private sector.

Earlier this month, at the AeroTEC Flight Test Center in Moses Lake, Washington, Universal Hydrogen flew a regional airliner – an 84-foot Dash 8 aircraft – equipped with engines powered by hydrogen fuel cells. This was the largest aircraft ever to fly principally on hydrogen power.

In January, ZeroAvia, with a growing presence in Everett, Washington, flew what was at the time the world’s largest retrofitted commercial hydrogen-electric aircraft to date.

So I welcome both Jon Gordon from Universal Hydrogen and Val Miftakhov from ZeroAvia. 

And I’m proud that these companies, along with Eviation and magniX that are in Washington State, are continuing to build the next generation of aviation technology.

These technologies can provide new access to thousands of local municipal airports on lower fuel costs and maintenance costs, that’s why we want to see this develop.

So congratulations to both of you for bringing these new products to us and the future one step closer.

Achieving net-zero aviation emissions by 2050, a target shared by industry and the Federal government, will require shifts in commercial aircraft development and different fuel sources.

So this means building aircraft made from lighter weight thermoplastics and composites that are so important and we want to continue to see leadership on that issue, particularly in the State of Washington.

We feel like we must seize on the opportunity with this FAA reauthorization to strengthen America’s competitiveness in aerospace.  I look forward to hearing from all the witnesses and helping us meet this challenge.