This editorial ran in the Washington Times on July 18, 2023.

America has led the way in aerospace innovation for a century. From the Wright brothers’ first flight to landing Apollo 11 on the Moon, this nation has awed the world with new planes, rockets and aircraft.

As a result, the U.S. has long been the standard the rest of the world has followed when developing aviation design, safety and operational regulations.

However, when it comes to Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) the newest innovations in the aviation industry America is falling behind.

Textron eAviation’s Pipistrel brand designed, built and certified the world’s first electric aircraft the Velis Electro. This new cutting-edge aircraft is certified in the European Union and the United Kingdom but currently only allowed to operate within the United States as an experimental aircraft due to a sluggish airworthiness process and lack of clearly defined regulations.

Losing ground in this industry means the U.S. is missing out on both the revenue generated by this industry and the capabilities provided by AAM.

AAM will provide opportunities to move people and cargo between places previously not served, or underserved, via aviation. These technologies allow for new methods of air travel, including the use of electric aircraft. In 2022 alone, the orders for AAM aircraft continued on an upward trajectory, generating $45 billion from these sales. Rural areas can also benefit from AAM where access to transportation and the movement of cargo is more limited.

AAM is an evolving and complex field of aviation which is great for industry competition, but challenging for an efficient airworthiness and certification process.

Last year, the Federal Aviation Administration changed how it will go about certifying these aircraft a shift that led to delays and forced companies to reconsider their strategies on how best to get to market. Meanwhile, Chinese and European regulators have made quick progress, already publishing regulations for meeting airworthiness standards.

Congress and the FAA must continue to work together to set up consistent standards for the FAA to assess, certify and introduce new aircraft to the skies.

To help support this emerging industry, I introduced legislation to create an interagency working group of more than 15 federal departments and agencies with the goal of delivering a national strategy for AAM. This also creates invaluable dialogue amongst a wide group of government sectors to make certain the United States approaches this industry with uniformity. This past March, the Department of Transportation held its first meeting with representatives from across the industry.

The Senate also recently introduced the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2023, which includes a provision to establish the Office of Advanced Aviation Technology and Innovation. This organization will consider new technological advancements and help provide answers to questions on airworthiness certificates, waivers, exemptions, or other operational authorizations.

Additionally, this bill includes provisions to alleviate a pronounced regulatory backlog at FAA and increase the transparency surrounding the development of regulatory materials. Unfortunately, none of this can happen until President Biden nominates an FAA Administrator. The FAA must have a leader with a steady hand at the helm.

If the U.S. wants to maintain its dominance and leadership in aerospace innovation, Congress must act quickly to pass the FAA Reauthorization Act with critical AAM provisions and confirm an experienced FAA Administrator. While Congress can help ensure resources, craft authorizing language and provide the FAA with most of the tools it needs to succeed, the agency must have a leader with a steady hand at the helm. The FAA has not had a permanent, Senate-approved leader for more than 450 days. The vacancy is having a ripple effect amongst a variety of offices within the FAA, including those that handle AAM.

As the United States looks to the next chapter of aviation, we must not fall behind.

Senator Jerry Moran, Kansas Republican, serves as the lead Republican on the Commerce Subcommittee on Aviation Safety, Operations, and Innovation which allows him to conduct oversite on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), and aviation programs of the Department of Transportation (DOT) with respect to economic regulation of air carriers and passenger airline service.