While other major FAA programs are bogged down in Congressional controversy, reauthorization of the agency’s research and development projects appears to be sailing through the House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics.
Subcommittee Chairman Mark Udall (D-Colo.) introduced the Federal Aviation Research and Development Reauthorization Act of 2007 late in June. It reauthorizes some existing projects, introduces several new ones, and realigns the Joint Planning and Development Office so its director reports directly to the FAA administrator. Perhaps more significant, it appoints him associate administrator for the Next Generation Air Transport System project, for which the bill authorizes $20 million.
The full Science and Technology Committee was expected to mark up the bill as this issue was going to press.
“This legislation provides the tools that the FAA will need to keep the nation’s air transportation system safe, efficient and environmentally friendly,” said Udall, whose committee maintains jurisdiction over the R&D portions of the larger FAA Reauthorization legislation currently before Congress.
The act responds to recommendations from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), as well as other expert witnesses that the Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee heard from in hearings, Udall said.
It recognizes that the FAA, along with NASA and other agencies, has a critical role to play in supporting aviation R&D activities, a number of which have been under-funded in recent years, according to the GAO and FAA’s own R&D advisory committee. To remedy that, the act adds to the President’s funding requests for human factors research, weather research, unmanned aircraft systems research, and energy- and environment-related research.
“Recent announcements from Europe regarding the potential imposition of emissions penalties on aircraft operations in the next decade have also made it clear that the U.S. needs to better understand the impact of aviation on the climate, as well as what might be done to mitigate that impact,” Udall added. “This legislation takes the first step in that direction by directing the FAA, in coordination with NASA and the U.S. Climate Change Science Program, to develop a plan for such research.”
The act also contains provisions to continue GA aircraft engine research; establishes a runway research program that should benefit both GA and commercial air carrier airports; and establishes a program to conduct research on the impacts of space weather.