In 2009, Secretary LaHood convened an Aviation Summit — a state-of-the-sky meeting of experts assembled to ensure the DOT was poised to help industry succeed. The backlash of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, fluctuating oil prices, and a seesaw economy had jolted the aviation industry. The Secretary‘s intent was to bring change, to lean in when necessary, and to enable aviation industry success in the future. To maintain momentum, he asked for recommendations with traction—suggestions that could be implemented as quickly as possible.
Twenty-four experts met at the Aviation Summit on November 12, 2009, and five key themes emerged: safety, competitiveness and viability, environment, financing, and labor and workforce. With these topics in mind, Secretary LaHood chartered the Future of Aviation Advisory Committee (FAAC) to crystallize the discussion into a manageable, actionable list of recommendations from each area.
Roadmap for the Future
The goal of the FAAC is not so much a report as it is a roadmap of recommendations that will be a catalyst for change to the areas of aviation that need it most. The FAAC was chartered on April 16, 2010, with the mandate to provide information, advice, and recommendations to the DOT to ensure the competitiveness of the U.S. aviation industry, including its capability to address the evolving transportation needs, challenges, and opportunities of the U.S. and global economies.
At the FAAC‘s first meeting on May 25, 2010, in Washington, DC, Secretary LaHood charged the committee members to work together to tackle the aviation industry‘s major challenges. Secretary LaHood was seeking actionable recommendations that could be implemented quickly, and have a tangible impact.
The 19-member FAAC is a diverse group of leaders and visionary thinkers representing all facets of the U.S. aviation industry, including air carriers, general aviation, manufacturers, labor, consumers, academia, and the financial sector. These aviation experts were appointed because of their proven ability to develop consensus on solutions to challenging problems. Susan Kurland, DOT Assistant Secretary for Aviation and International Affairs, chaired the committee.
Five subcommittees formed to examine the five themes that emerged from the Aviation Summit. Each subcommittee developed three to five near-term focus areas that would form the basis of the FAAC‘s recommendations to Secretary LaHood. Over the next 7 months, the subcommittees identified key issues and received presentations from subject matter experts.
The resulting 23 recommendations were delivered to Secretary LaHood at the final FAAC meeting on December 15, 2010. These 23 recommendations form the basis of this report. They cover issues critical to the future of the U.S. aviation industry, including the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen), alternative fuels, emissions reductions, funding, technical education for future aviation industry workers, and relations with the aviation industry workforce. Each recommendation will ultimately be a step that ensures the U.S. aviation industry can compete in a global environment.
The FAAC reached consensus on all 23 recommendations, with dissent on a single issue. The dissenting opinion appears verbatim herein.
It should be noted that some FAAC subcommittee discussions did not lead to consensus recommendations. These important topics were debated energetically within the subcommittees and at full committee meetings, and were an important part of the FAAC dialogue. These discussions are included in this report under ―Other Areas of Significant Discussion.‖
The pages that follow summarize the FAAC recommendations and the subcommittee conclusions, grouped into categories for ease of reading. The language of each is the result of long hours of discussion and debate. The result is not a wish list but a tangible record of recommendations that will make a difference, and more importantly, make an immediate difference.