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Ranking Members Sam Graves & Garret Graves Statements from Hearing on the Future of the U.S. Aviation Workforce

Washington, D.C., February 11, 2020 | Justin Harclerode (202) 225-9446 | comments
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Opening remarks, as prepared, of Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO) and Subcommittee on Aviation Ranking Member Garret Graves (R-LA) from today’s hearing entitled, “Looking Forward: The Future of America’s Aviation Maintenance and Manufacturing Workforce”:

Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO):
Today’s hearing is very important.  The pipeline of people seeking careers in aerospace has been running low for years, and predicted growth in commercial aviation makes an already serious situation even more critical.

Aerospace careers, including piloting, maintenance, manufacturing, and engineering, offer pathways to stable, well-paying careers that are in demand.  These are the kinds of jobs that you can raise a family on while also having the flexibility to find work in many different places across the country.

Despite these benefits and despite the demand, companies across the aerospace industry face challenges recruiting and retaining well-qualified professionals.  At the same time the industry is contending with forecasted growth, it also faces an impending “baby boomer” retirement wave, workers moving to other industries, and high barriers to entry for those who might want to pursue an aerospace career.

Congress recognized the impending workforce crisis and responded by including an entire Aviation Workforce title in the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018, including my bill to invest $5 million in aviation technician workforce training.  Much of the work directed by that law is underway, and I look forward to hearing from the FAA and GAO on those efforts.

Additionally, there have been several bills introduced this Congress to address aerospace workforce shortages and entry barriers.  I wholeheartedly support efforts to deal with barriers to entry and ensure a steady, more reliable pipeline of well-qualified and diverse aerospace professionals.

I look forward to working in a bipartisan way to address workforce shortages.  But I believe we must be very thoughtful in addressing workforce needs.  The FAA should not be replacing the role that industry or other government agencies must play in these efforts.

I know several on the panel and throughout the industry have programs in place to help attract new workers and I look forward to hearing more about how the FAA can complement those efforts. 

So, as we continue the conversation and consider legislation to address aerospace workforce issues, we must be mindful not to pull the FAA in too many directions.

As I said in the beginning, this hearing is important.  It is important not just to the future success of the U.S. aerospace industry, but to the hardworking men and women who make up our aerospace workforce.

Subcommittee on Aviation Ranking Member Garret Graves (R-LA):
Earlier this Congress, we held a hearing to look at the future of aviation and talk about issues such as the possibility of supersonic travel, the role of drones in delivering packages or people to their destinations, urban air mobility, and commercial space travel.  It’s an extraordinary future to think about.

The aviation industry today is the largest sector in terms of our net trade benefits – we export more aviation related materials and technologies than any other sector.  It’s such a critical component of our economy.  According to the FAA, aviation constitutes $1.6 trillion in annual economic activity and supports millions of jobs.

However, we’re facing projected needs of 754,000 aviation maintenance technician jobs and 790,000 pilots over the next 20 years.  These figures don’t even take into consideration the kinds of innovation I noted.

On one hand, we have a promising future in the economically vital sector of aviation, but on the other hand, a large segment of that workforce is nearing retirement age.  So it’s imperative that we work collectively to ensure we’re ready for our future’s promise.

This issue is not all on the shoulders of the FAA, but the FAA does have influence over the workforce pipelines.  For example, the curriculum used to certify aircraft mechanics set by the FAA dates to the 1960s.  That’s absolutely a barrier to entry, and I’m glad that the FAA is working to bring it into the 21st century.

But everyone in this industry needs to focus on their respective role in growing the workforce.  For example, we’ll hear today from the Lift Academy – a pilot and mechanic training academy that Republic Airlines has invested in.  We’ll also hear from Gulfstream and Delta Air Lines about their training programs. 

In addition, we need to ensure we’re working with our aviation schools; Louisiana Tech, in my home state, has an aviation program.  And Vaughn College and Aviation High School are here to testify today as well.

All of our efforts together must focus on attracting capable people into these careers, including recognizing our incredible opportunity to attract a much more diverse workforce.  Just 2% of aircraft mechanics and 4% of airline transport pilots are women.  Only 3% of commercial pilots are African American and 7% are Hispanic or Latino.

In 2018, the Committee passed the bipartisan FAA Reauthorization Act, which included the most comprehensive aerospace workforce title ever signed into law.  I look forward to hearing from the FAA on their progress in implementing the title, and who those provisions can help us address workforce issues.

Click here for more information, including witness testimony.

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Tags: Aviation