HAI’s Government Affairs team on the FAA’s invitation to James Viola to join new AAM Aviation Rulemaking Committee, the FAA reauthorization hearings, Phil Washington’s withdrawal as nominee for FAA administrator, the EU’s climate-neutrality strategy, and more.
HAI US NEWS
James Viola Receives FAA Aviation Rulemaking Committee Invitation
The FAA has invited HAI President and CEO James A. Viola to be a member of the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Detection and Mitigation Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC). As an ARC member, Viola will make recommendations to the FAA about how to integrate counter-UAS technologies across the United States while preserving the safety and efficiency of the National Airspace System (NAS).
In the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018, Congress asked the FAA to “develop a plan for the certification, permitting, authorizing, or allowing of the deployment of UAS detection and mitigation systems” while ensuring that the systems do not adversely affect the safe and efficient operation of the NAS. The FAA administrator chartered the ARC to make recommendations on this plan, including consideration of new standards. The first ARC plenary meeting will convene on May 23, 2023.
Phil Washington Withdraws as Nominee to Lead FAA
On Mar. 25, Phil Washington withdrew from consideration to head the FAA because of strong opposition in the US Senate. President Joe Biden nominated Washington for the position in July 2022 following the previous administrator’s resignation in March 2022, which means that the FAA has been without a permanent leader for a year. Before assuming his current role as CEO of the Denver International Airport (KDEN), Washington had served primarily in surface transportation. Because his vast experience was in surface rather than aerial transportation, certain senators raised concerns.
Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Chair Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) had offered support for Washington, and numerous unions, airport groups, airlines, and past FAA administrators had submitted letters of endorsement. However, Republicans in both the Senate and the House raised objections, stating that the FAA required a person with a strong aviation background. The defining moment causing Washington to withdraw was Sen. Cantwell’s postponement of his nomination vote last week, after it became apparent that the committee did not have the votes to support moving Washington forward.
Washington’s withdrawal means that the FAA will continue to lack a Senate-confirmed leader. The White House administration has announced that it will move swiftly to nominate a new candidate. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) has brought up the idea of nominating FAA acting administrator Billy Nolen to officially lead the agency. Currently, both sides agree that getting a nominee confirmed quickly is a priority.
US House, Senate Hold FAA Reauthorization Hearings
Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, convened a full committee hearing on Wednesday, Mar. 29, to examine advances in research and development that will support the next generation of commercial aircraft in the United States. The hearing also examined the necessary resources, infrastructure, and regulatory framework to apply innovative and sustainable aviation technologies. Watch the hearing.
Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.-06), chair of the House Aviation Subcommittee, convened a hearing titled “Harnessing the Evolution of Flight to Deliver for the American People” on Thursday, Mar. 30. Multiple HAI members testified, including Bristow Group Inc., whose CEO, Christopher Bradshaw, testified on behalf of HAI.
Graves specifically referenced the HAI Advanced Air Mobility Industry Advisory Council’s Roadmap of Advanced Air Mobility Operations, and Bristow included the report in its written testimony to Congress.
Bradshaw shared Bristow’s pragmatic approach to entering the field of advanced air mobility (AAM) and described how AAM will fit into their market. He also emphasized that an incremental approach to AAM adoption is the best tactic and highlighted the need for the FAA’s support. The current US regulatory framework lags in comparison to other global jurisdictions, he said. Although the FAA’s priority is safety, its opaque processes and shifting timelines are less than ideal. Additional clarity and expediency from the FAA are required to support US leadership in a competitive global marketplace. Furthermore, there is a need to attract and develop the next generation of aviation’s workforce, who will be required to pilot and maintain these aircraft. Bristow, along with HAI, supports the expansion of the Workforce Development Grant program. Bradshaw expressed the desire to see rotorcraft included in the pool eligible for these critically important grants.
“[HAI and] Bristow are excited to be lending our expertise … to drive innovation with our partners and members in the AAM space,” Bradshaw concluded. “AAM and these next-generation propulsion systems and technologies are essential to the long-term sustainable growth of the vertical flight industry.” Watch the hearing.
Texas Introduces AAM Legislation
In the past month, Texas introduced two bills, HB 2678 and SB 2144, relating to advanced air mobility (AAM) technology. If the bills are enacted, the Texas Transportation Commission would appoint an advisory committee to assess current state law, identify potential changes that are needed to facilitate the implementation of AAM technology in the state, and develop a statewide plan for the implementation of AAM. The advisory committee would be composed of members from diverse geographic regions of the state, state and local law enforcement, the AAM industry, local governments, and the public, as well as transportation experts, commercial airport representatives, and vertiport operators.
In addition, the bills would require the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) to review existing state aviation standards and guidelines, airport facility planning, and compatibility guidance to ensure that they are applicable to AAM. TXDOT would also be required to support the development of federal and industry standards for AAM technology that prioritize safety, and develop a statewide plan that specifies potential locations for and classifications of vertiports and other associated infrastructure to guide the future operational environment of AAM.
HAI is excited to see states like Texas facilitating the safe and efficient transition of AAM into the state market. We look forward to the passage of HB 2678 and its companion bill, SB 2144.
Multiple States Introduce Vertiport Legislation that May Hinder AAM Infrastructure Development
In the past three months, states such as Oregon, Florida, and Utah have introduced legislation relating to vertiport infrastructure. Each state’s proposed senate and house bills define terminology and require the state department of transportation to take certain actions regarding vertiports. The bills also provide applicability, design, and layout-plan requirements for vertiport owners. If enacted, these bills would prohibit the granting of an exclusive right to one or more vertiport owners or operators or to vertiport operators at one or more vertiports, to promote competition.
HAI understands that competition and equitable access are critical, but avoiding impediments to the growth of the AAM industry is of equal importance, especially in the initial stages. Limiting an infrastructure operator from operating more than one vertiport could stifle private-sector investment in vertiports, reduce the likelihood that rural communities will have access to AAM, and prevent aviation authorities from providing unified operations across the community.
Most vertiport infrastructure companies are interested in building a network of vertiports. If vertiport operators can operate only one private-use vertiport in each state, they will choose to operate that vertiport in a major city, where volume is likely to be greater. In addition, if companies such as medical cargo and logistics service providers need to build a private vertiport but are prevented from doing so, smaller communities will lack additional access to these services.
HAI recognizes that public and private infrastructure is needed for a healthy aviation system. HAI remains committed to working with legislators and community members in each state to proactively address concerns and answer questions about infrastructure and the future of AAM.
HAI INTERNATIONAL NEWS
European Green Deal: Agreement Reached to Deploy Alt Fuels Infrastructure
This week, the European Commission welcomed the political agreement reached between the European Parliament and the EU Council to boost the number of publicly accessible electric recharging and hydrogen refueling stations across the main transport corridors and hubs in the European Union (EU). This landmark agreement will enable the transition to zero-emission transport and contribute to the EU’s target of reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030, compared with 1990 levels.
The new regulation for the deployment of alternative fuels infrastructure (AFIR) includes setting mandatory deployment targets for electricity supply to stationary aircraft. AFIR also paves the way for a user-friendly recharging and refueling experience, with price transparency, common minimum payment options, and customer information across the EU.
The political agreement reached this week must now be formally adopted. Once the European Parliament and the EU Council complete this process, the new rules will be published in the Official Journal of the European Union and enter into force after a transitional period of six months. The European Green Deal is the EU’s long-term growth strategy to make the EU climate-neutral by 2050. This week’s agreement is another crucial step in the adoption of the Commission’s “Fit for 55” legislative package to deliver the European Green Deal.