Washington D.C. – Today the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology approved H.R. 970, a bill authorizing aviation research and development (R&D) at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

In his opening remarks, Committee Chairman Ralph Hall (R-TX) said that the provisions in the bill “are focused and essential policy initiatives that will sustain the excellent research now underway at FAA, including research on unmanned aircraft systems, design for certification, alternative jet fuel technologies, and aviation’s effect on the environment.”

H.R. 970 authorizes FAA R&D programs for fiscal years 2011 through 2014.  For Fiscal Year 2011, the authorization amount is a hybrid of the current R&D spending level and the Fiscal Year 2008 enacted level.  For Fiscal Years 2012 through 2014, the bill authorizes at the 2008 enacted level, which is consistent with the Republican goal of reining in spending.  Three amendments offered today by Democratic Committee members attempting to increase spending levels were defeated along party line votes. 

Last month, the Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee held an oversight hearing focused on FAA’s R&D program.  Witnesses from FAA, industry, an external advisory committee to FAA, and the Inspector General of the Department of Transportation, testified about ongoing research activities and their effectiveness in supporting the agency’s diverse missions.  Witnesses focused on efforts to modernize the air traffic control system through the Next Generation Air Transportation System program, research important to the general aviation community, and the operation of unmanned aircraft systems in our national airspace.

Chairman Hall noted that by reporting H.R. 970, the Committee will “ensure a broader FAA reauthorization bill will include an R&D title, thus enabling the agency’s goals of increasing the capacity, efficiency, safety and reliability of our nation’s civil aviation system through a robust research and development program.”

Several amendments were approved today that will improve the legislation.  A summary of successful amendments follows – all four were approved with bipartisan support:

Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-MS) offered an amendment to ensure that programs described in the National Aviation Research Plan, already receiving funds from other accounts, will remain authorized.  This amendment intends to avoid a “double-counting” problem for these activities that are funded from other  accounts at FAA.

Rep. Jerry Costello (D-IL) offered an amendment allowing the FAA Administrator to set up a Center of Excellence from the authorized amounts in the bill to perform R&D on human factors that can affect aviation safety.

Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) offered an amendment to allow the FAA Administrator to conduct assessments ofthe agency’s safety- and environmental- related research programs. 

Rep. Brad Miller (D-NC) offered an amendment to require that FAA’s assessment include a determination of whether an anonymous survey of pilots would be a useful tool in assessing safety risks.