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Press Release of Senator Cantwell

FAA Announces First Composites Research Center to Go to UW

FAA Center of Excellence will help build safe and efficient 7E7

Thursday, December 18,2003


WASHINGTON, D.C.. – The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will announce today that the University of Washington successfully landed the FAA's first composites research center, according to U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA). The FAA will create the new Center of Excellence (CoE) to focus on advanced materials in commercial airplanes. The CoE is a consortium of business, academic, and government interests that will coordinate research efforts to encourage the broader use of advanced structural materials, including composites and new aluminum alloys, in future aircraft such as the Boeing 7E7.

Importance of first composites research center:

"This composites research center is a great boost to the future of manufacturing in Puget Sound," Cantwell stated. "This is more than an investment in research, it is an investment in jobs. Creating jobs of the future means looking ahead at what is going to drive business and industries. Composites will comprise nearly sixty percent of the 7E7 and will make it a great plane."

Cantwell continued, “This research will bring advancements in knowledge related to these new materials, including manufacturing, repair and certification techniques will undoubtedly assist the production and launch of this 21 st century aircraft. All in all, this center will be a key partner in getting the 7E7 into the air.”

Boeing officials affirmed the center's importance.

"The continuing effort to establish the advanced materials center at the University of Washington is a great example of our elected officials working together with industry to keep Washington state a leader in creating a safe and efficient global air transport system. These technologies will be essential going forward as we look towards designing and building the commercial airplanes of the 21st century," said Mike Cave, Senior Vice President of Airplane Programs for Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

The purpose of the COE for advanced materials is to forge a union of public sector (FAA, airport authorities, state/local governments, etc.), private sector (airlines, manufacturers, etc.), and academic institutions to create a world-class consortium that will identify solutions for existing and anticipated advanced materials problems. First, it will research the long-term durability and maintainability of aircraft manufacturing structures. Second, it will train new composites engineers and technicians and offer them continuing education. Third, the center will bring companies, researchers and government together to share ideas about new applications of the research.

Sen. Maria Cantwell's Efforts to Land Center:

In April 2003, Cantwell introduced S. 815, a bill to establish a center for excellence for applied research and training in the use of advanced materials in transport aircraft.

The legislation was considered during a U.S. Senate Commerce Committee field hearing on long-term growth strategies for the Northwest economy held in Seattle on April 14, 2003, and ultimately included in the Conference Report for the FAA Reauthorization bill, the principal legislation guiding U.S. aviation policy.

In July 2003, Senator Cantwell brought FAA's Chief Research official, Charles Keegan, to tour the Boeing Frederickson facility and to discuss the proposed center with the University of Washington. Cantwell worked with the University of Washington and the Boeing Company to draft the legislation. The legislation was also included in the “The Second Century of Flight Act,” an aviation research bill authored by Senators Ernest Hollings (D-SC), Cantwell, and Sam Brownback (R-KS).

President Bush signed the Cantwell legislation into law on December 12, 2003.

More on How Center Came To Be:

In its proposal, the FAA acknowledges, "The full potential of composites, bonding, and other advanced materials and processes has not been realized. Industry continues to pursue performance advantages and cost savings possible with technology innovation, which may be classified as advanced material forms and processes."

Landing a new Center of Excellence is a competitive process. The University of Washington made a strong case for why the new research center should be headquartered there. With its strengths in advanced materials research through its College of Engineering, its nationally recognized leadership in nanotechnology, and its unique relationships with both the Boeing Company and the FAA Transportation Division, the University of Washington and its regional partners - including WSU, Oregon State University and Edmonds Community College – is particularly well-positioned to participate in this Center of Excellence.

UW President Lee Huntsman stated, “With the help of this Center of Excellence, the University of Washington will work in tandem with businesses to ensure that the Puget Sound is at the forefront of technology and the aerospace industry. I appreciate Senator Cantwell's hard work."

The FAA intends to invest between $300,000 and $500,000 in the first year and a minimum of $300,000 per year for the next two years of the COE, with additional funding to come through public and private sector sponsors. Cantwell secured $500,000 for the Center of Excellence of Advanced Materials in the Fiscal Year 2004 Omnibus Appropriations bill. This funding will be matched by industry and academic partners – totaling up to $1 million in annual research funding.

Established industry partners for the UW-led Center of Excellence are:

- The Boeing Company: Seattle, WA - Triumph Composite Systems, Inc: Spokane, WA - Toray Composites (America), Inc: Frederickson, WA - Hexcel Composites: offices in Bellevue, WA; manufacturing facility in Burlington, WA - Integrated Technologies (Intec), Inc: Bothel, WA - Composite Solutions: Auburn, WA - Heatcon Composite Systems: Seattle, WA

Cantwell proposed the Center of Excellence for Advanced Materials in early 2003 after consultations with the University of Washington College of Engineering. Senator Cantwell believes that research in this field is particularly important given the Boeing's company decision to rely predominately on composite structures for its new 7E7 aircraft.

The Center of Excellence for Advanced Materials will be the sixth FAA Center of Excellence program. The UW will lead the advanced materials program with another Center of Excellence partner, Wichita State University, which is home to the National Center for Aviation Research.

The COE program is administered by the FAA to foster collaboration among industry, academia and the FAA. The COEs strive to perform research pertinent to developing and maintaining a safe and efficient national aerospace transportation system. The current six COEs are: (1) Airworthiness Assurance Center (Ohio State, Iowa State); (2) Operations Research (Berkeley, MIT and others); (3) Airport Pavement Research (University of Illinois, Northwestern); (4) General Aviation (Embry-Riddle Aero Univ., Wichita State, University of North Dakota and others); (5) Aircraft Noise and Aviation Emissions Mitigation (led by MIT); and (6) Joint Center of Excellence for Computational Modeling of Aircraft Structures (Rutgers University and Georgia Institute of Technology).