Cantwell on FAA Aviation Jobs Bill: ‘a Win for Aviation Innovation in Washington’

Senator led on reauthorization bill, which supports thousands of Washington jobs and invests in the state’s airports

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) praised the passage of the bipartisan Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill for Washington state. The bill reauthorizes the FAA through 2015, accelerates the air traffic control system’s conversion to a GPS-based network, known as NextGen, and provides stable funding for Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grants to invest in airport infrastructure.

“This bipartisan bill is a winner for aviation innovation and job growth in Washington State,” said Cantwell, the Chair of the Senate Aviation Subcommittee. “It will support 12,000 Washington jobs as Washington’s airports modernize to support regional growth. This long overdue bill will help bring our aviation transportation system into 21st century GPS technology. That means friendlier skies, fewer delays for travelers, greater efficiency for airlines, and new aviation jobs.”

The legislation has already passed the House and now heads to President Obama for his signature. Its provisions will have numerous benefits for Washington state, including:



  • Supporting 12,000 Washington airport-related jobs– The FAA reauthorization bill will support approximately 12,000 new and existing construction and related jobs in Washington state over the next 4 years, as airports receive grants under the Airport Improvement Program to enhance airport safety, capacity, security, and improve environmental protections.


  • Adding 8 flights from DC to West Coast cities– The FAA reauthorization bill increases direct access to Washington Reagan National Airport (DCA), Washington, D.C.’s nearest airport, from more Western cities by adding eight more round-trip flights. This could benefit businesses that need to fly directly to our nation’s capital as well as provides greater access for Washingtonians visiting the nation’s capital.


  • Supporting alternative jet fuel research– The FAA reauthorization bill increases research funding for alternative and renewable fuels and authorizes the creation of an FAA Center of Excellence for Alternative Jet-Fuel Research in Civil Aircraft. This would support the Pacific Northwest’s growing biofuels industry.


  • Continuing composite research– The FAA bill extends the authorization for the FAA Center of Excellence in Advanced Material for Transport Aircraft Structures (AMTAS) located at the University of Washington, which helped advance the composites for the Boeing Dreamliner. The AMTAS center’s research in advanced composite materials used in aircraft will help Washington maintain its competitive edge in aerospace manufacturing.


  • Redeveloping abandoned airport properties – The FAA reauthorization bill creates a pilot program to help communities plan and redevelop land around airports that had to be abandoned as a result of airport expansion.




  • Accelerating 21st Century GPS system – The FAA reauthorization bill is a major step forward to a 21st century GPS air transportation system that will reduce gridlock in the sky and at airports. The FAA estimates that the by 2018, the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) will reduce total flight delays by about 20 percent, which will provide $22 billion in cumulative benefits to the traveling public, airlines and the FAA.


  • Implementing precision navigation– As part of NextGen, the bill mandates the development of precision navigation procedures at the nation's largest 35 airports by 2015, which include both SeaTac and Portland International Airport. The entire National Airspace System is required to be covered by 2016.


  • Protecting the environment– Because of fewer delays and more direct flight paths, by 2018 the FAA expects airlines to save more than 1.4 billion gallons of aviation fuel and carbon emissions to be reduced by nearly 14 million tons.



  • Incentivizing life-saving air ambulances– The FAA reauthorization bill includes a provision authored by Sen. Cantwell that will lower the cost for air ambulances services, such as Inland Northwest Heath Services and Airlift Northwest, to purchase fixed wing aircraft to use as air ambulances. Fixed-wing aircraft are used to fly longer distances and are more common in rural areas. The act clarifies that the general restriction against the use of tax-exempt bonds for purchasing an airplane does not apply in the case of planes that are equipped for and exclusively dedicated to providing acute care emergency medical services.



  • Supporting airline workers– The FAA reauthorization bill includes a provision authored by Cantwell that will help protect the pensions of more than 2,000 Washington airline workers who were affected by airline bankruptcies. Affected employees will be able to put up to 90 percent of their bankruptcy settlements into traditional Individual Retirement Accounts.


The FAA modernization comes at a crucial time. America’s passengers and cargo airlines drive nearly 11 million jobs and $1.2 trillion in annual economic activity, yet America is the only Western nation that still relies on a 60-year-old, ground-based air traffic control system instead of the more efficient, satellite-based system used by other developed nations. Projections indicate a significant increase in demand for air travel over the next 15 years, and the nation’s current air traffic system is quickly reaching its capacity.

As chair of the Senate Aviation Subcommittee, Cantwell has made the FAA reauthorization a priority. During last week’s Federal Aviation hearing, Committee Chairman Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) recognized her leadership in support of the effort:

“[Senator Cantwell has] worked tirelessly to get this bill done,” Rockefeller said. “She’s made substantial contributions to the entire bill both in the area of slots but most notably on NextGen. And just for our Committee’s interest, from my point of view, I told her at the caucus that she was going to be the point-person on NextGen. She’s brilliant on technology and all those things and she’s very organized. So this bill marks the first of many major contributions she’s going to make.”

Cantwell has long fought to advance and modernize the nation’s aviation economy and skilled workforce. Soon after taking office, she passed legislation as part of a previous FAA reauthorization bill creating AMTAS at the University of Washington. The center leads the industry’s research of advanced aviation materials, such as composites and aluminum alloys, for use in future aircraft. In 2001, Cantwell also helped land initial funding to help grow a training program in advanced aviation materials started in the late 90s at Edmonds Community College. Since then, several other training programs at the state level have spun off from these initial programs and are currently helping to produce skilled aviation workers for the state and nation using state and federal funds.