US Congressional budget and other oversight responsibilities are diffused among a number of committees in the Senate and House of Representatives. And so it is with commercial aviation. While, for instance, Appropriations and Authorization Committees in each legislative body hold the purse strings for the FAA’s annual budget, other Senate and House committees and their subcommittees have oversight on certification, infrastructure and a number of other administration legislative touchpoints – as CAT routinely reports on in the rapidly emerging eVTOL sector

It was with interest that Capitol Hill’s focus has shifted to the Senate Subcommittee on Aviation Safety, Operations and Innovation for its hearing: “FAA Reauthorization: Integrating New Entrants into the National Airspace System.” The subcommittee is under the jurisdiction of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. The message that resonated through the subcommittee hearing room from industry executives and the senators themselves was clear: there is a mismatch between US airspace policies and regulations, and the quickly evolving advanced air mobility sector.

Gregory Davis, President and CEO of Eviation Aircraft, “strongly encourages the FAA to look beyond the borders of the US and work with global regulators, such as the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), on the path towards certifying electric aircraft.” His Arlington, Washington-based company is manufacturing the world’s first all-electric aircraft, integrating battery technology with electric propulsion. Davis stated it was important “that the FAA focus on clear requirements for certification of battery technology whether it pertains to all-electric or hybrid aircraft. Standards need to be applied the same internationally so that we can focus on mass adoption of electric aviation.”

Stéphane Fymat, Vice President and General Manager, Urban Air Mobility and Unmanned Aerial Systems at Honeywell Aerospace, emphasized, “It’s time to come together – as policymakers, regulators, and technology leaders – to address aerial mobility and remove regulatory gaps remaining on the path to success.” To move beyond simple rhetoric, the executive offered concrete suggestions to achieve his goals. “In the case of Congressional and White House leadership, it is critical to:  

  • First, prioritize the regulatory urgency required to achieve US global leadership in UAS and UAM - this must become a national priority to succeed. For all regulatory priorities, the timeline to achieve them is a critical factor to industry success and US leadership; there must be an ambitious expedited timeline set out by Congress to ensure regulatory urgency and drive integration; 
  • Second, to ensure a whole-of-government coordinated approach across federal agencies and collaboration with industry, state and local governments, and stakeholders;
  • Third, to ensure the federal government invests the resources necessary to accomplish these goals.”

Beyond the US Election

This is certain to be one of the final congressional hearings on airspace integration and similar topics of interest to the eVTOL sector, perhaps after this November’s US mid-term elections and before the new Congress convenes in January. What is encouraging is Congress and the White House are elevating AAM policies to the top of their agendas. At the same time, the rapidly evolving AAM sector appears to gaining bipartisan support across a politically divided US Congress