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Legislative Update: Aviation Manufacturing in Today’s Economy

February 15, 2017

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation held its first of five hearings on the reauthorization of FAA. The focus of today’s hearing was on the current state of civil aviation manufacturing in the United States, including the economic, regulatory, and general health of American civil aviation manufacturing, as well as challenges facing this critical industry. Testimony was given from representatives of the FAA, Boeing Company, Pratt and Whitney, and Textron Aviation.

In the opening remarks given by Chairman Frank Lobiondo and Raking Member Rick Larsen, aviation manufacturing was praised for its crucial role in our economy. Aviation manufacturing is a top exporter and supports millions of American jobs. The top committee members also expressed similar sentiments regarding the importance of FAA certification and regulatory processes adapting and responding to the aviation industry’s new technologies and innovations.

Peggy Gilligan, FAA Associate Administrator for Aviation Safety, gave what will be her final testimony to the committee. She is retiring in the spring after 37 years of service in the FAA. Gilligan thanked the committee for its support of the FAA’s Part 23 Revision and stated that the agency is at the beginning stages of a prototype program that looks at replacing required equipment with more modern equipment with better and safer features. She went on to say, “As we gain more experience in weighing risk and safety value, we will rely more and more on industry to help identify the next technology that will enhance general aviation safety and save lives.”

Dr. Alan Epstein, Pratt and Whitney Vice President for Technology and Environment, voiced his strong support for Organizational Designated Authority (ODA) in the following statement, “Partnering with the FAA through its ODA System has proven extremely helpful in providing flexibility and effectively adding capacity.” In 2016 Pratt and Whitney doubled its ODA members in support of their GTF engine manufacturing ramp up. Dr. Epstein went on to say, “We plan to expand this program for the next several years, consistent with product demands.”

John Hamilton, Boeing Vice President of Engineering, voiced concern over current FAA policies regarding the efficiency of certification stating, “The aircraft certification service at the FAA can’t efficiently complete these critical validation activities without support from Congress and a commitment by FAA senior leadership to make this work a priority.” Hamilton said that process can sometimes take as long as 14 months.

Michael Thacker, Textron Aviation Senior Vice President for Certification, was asked what FAA policy changes have had the greatest impact in the shortest amount of time. He responded, “Carry forward the philosophy that has been put in place with the FAA’s Part 23 Rewrite and apply it to Part 25 and other parts applicable to aircraft categories. This would be a great move in terms of streamlining the overall regulations to make the entire process less prescriptive and more appropriate.”

Categories: Advocacy
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