Rep. Sam Graves and Rep. Rick Nolan THE HILL
Why Congress Needs to Pass Aircraft Certification Reform
May 16, 2017
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  • Wasting our nation’s aviation leadership would be a terrible thing. U.S. ingenuity has led to significant improvements in flight and in safety that have changed the world forever. Congress has a simple choice in the next Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization: We can further aviation manufacturing by removing barriers to aircraft certification, or we can fail to act and allow America’s aviation sector to fall behind the rest of the world.

    In our aviation system, the FAA plays an important role in certifying aircraft, engines and avionics, but if the process for certification is flawed, products are prevented from reaching the market in a timely fashion. This is especially true in the global aviation manufacturing industry, where competition is fierce. Simply put, an innovative product may lose out to its competition simply because its certification program is more efficient. But now we have a great opportunity to change that, removing these unnecessary roadblocks to a safer, more efficient aviation industry.

    The Government Accountability Office has reported that aviation industry stakeholders and experts have long raised questions about the efficiency of the FAA’s certification and regulatory processes. Additionally, the FAA’s Management Advisory Council has reported that certification and regulatory functions and reform continue to be a high priority for almost all aviation stakeholders. The problems persist, and industry demand for certification continues to grow. Without changes, new innovations and products will sit on the shelf as other nations surpass ours.

    General aviation has been and remains a critical economic engine for our country. It is an essential part of the national transportation system, and that is especially true in rural areas. A 2014 study performed by PriceWaterhouseCoopers shows the general aviation industry supports 1 million jobs, $219 billion in economic output and contributes $109 billion to U.S. gross domestic product.

    Additionally, civil aircraft manufacturing continues to be the top net exporter in our country and has an estimated $53.4 billion in positive impact on the trade balance for the U.S. These impressive economic numbers allow aviation manufacturing businesses to offer good-paying jobs to highly skilled employees. General aviation’s widespread economic effect is felt in each state of our nation.

    These manufacturers produce and sell in America, but this is ultimately a global industry. In this decade alone, about 50 percent of new aircraft billings have been in exports. To sell an aircraft, engine or other equipment to a foreign company, that entity must accept the product and the FAA’s certification, but U.S. manufacturers have faced delays in receiving product acceptance. The FAA can and must do a better job engaging with these other aviation authorities to explain the safety and design features of the aircraft to facilitate approval.

    Strong bipartisan support already exists for certification reforms. In the 114th Congress, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Senate each passed their version of an FAA reauthorization, with both including provisions to address these issues by driving certification and regulatory changes at the FAA, demanding more aggressive engagement by the FAA in foreign markets to expedite the validation of FAA certified products and safety standards, and facilitating the introduction of new safety innovations and other technologies. These critical reforms will be fundamental pieces of the FAA reauthorization process.

    We have become world leaders in aviation manufacturing because of great companies, a highly skilled workforce and a multifaceted export strategy. It is our belief that we can take full advantage of these considerable strengths through certification and regulatory reform. It will allow industry to bring new, safety-enhancing technologies to consumers and spur the development of aircraft and other aviation products more effectively. This would be a win for regulatory reform and one that would bring us strong economic and safety benefits.

    As discussions continue on addressing various critical aviation and transportation policies, we urge our colleagues to join us in support of reforms to the aircraft certification process. That will help us honor the legacy of past aviation innovators while laying the foundation for future growth and technological innovations.

    Graves represents the 6th District of Missouri, and Nolan represents the 8th District of Minnesota. Both representatives serve on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation.