Cantwell Statement on Washington Aerospace Competitiveness Study

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety and Security, issued the following statement after the release of a report from the management consulting firm Accenture on keeping the production of Boeing’s 737 MAX in Washington state.

“I applaud local, state, and federal officials for coming together in the effort to support Washington state aerospace jobs,” Cantwell said. “This is a pivotal point for the competitiveness of America’s aerospace industry. We need thousands more skilled aerospace workers to keep pace with the growing industry. We need to make the right decisions today to create aerospace jobs now – and for our children.

“Today’s Accenture report echoes what we heard from aerospace leaders at the field hearing I chaired last month in Seattle, and what we’ve heard in communities across the state from Spokane to Vancouver. We need to invest in growing a skilled workforce capable of competing in the 21st century aerospace industry. We need to engage young people earlier in the education system to pursue the STEM fields which are so critical to globally competitive industries like aerospace. And we need to improve the pathway for veterans to transition to jobs in the growing aerospace industry.

“With the right investments and collaboration, we can ensure that the next generation of planes are manufactured by a skilled 21st century Washington workforce.”

Cantwell has long fought to make Washington state a 21st century hub for the commercial aviation industry. In February 2011, Cantwell played a key role in shepherding the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill through the Senate, which invests in 21st century technology for air travel, creating high-tech aviation jobs and improving efficiency for travel and trade. The FAA reauthorization bill would convert the nation’s air traffic control system from the outdated, less efficient ground-based system to a more efficient satellite-based system. The GPS-based system, called NextGen, will allow aircraft to move more precisely into and out of airports, improving air safety and reducing flight delays that cost the nation’s economy billions of dollars each year.

In 2003, the Senate passed Cantwell’s amendment to the ‘Vision 100’ FAA reauthorization bill creating the FAA’s first advanced aviation materials research center. She successfully fought to have the new center based at the University of Washington. The Center for Excellence for Advanced Materials for Transportation Aviation Structures (AMTAS) leads the industry’s research of advanced aviation materials, such as composites and aluminum alloys, for use in civilian transport aircraft. Research conducted by AMTAS students and scientists helped prove to the FAA that use of structural composite materials in aircrafts is safe. Boeing incorporated ATMAS’ findings into many of the new 787s’ systems.

As part of AMTAS, Cantwell also helped land funding to 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 the skilled aviation workforce of the future.