DOT Secretary Views On “The Future of Aviation In
January 31, 2011 - On Wednesday of last week, Department
of Transportation, Secretary Ray LaHood spoke at the
Aero Club of Washington, DC Annual Luncheon on “The
Future of Aviation in
Good afternoon. Thank you, Monte [Belger], for the introduction and congratulations on your new gig. We look forward to working with you. Before we get too far along, let me also say to Lisa [Piccione]: On behalf of President Obama and the U.S. Department of Transportation, thank you for your extraordinary service to the Aero Club and the traveling public.
must say, last night was very exciting for all of us.
We heard President Obama talk about what it will
also found myself thinking about the state of
– the safe and strong state – of American aviation is a credit
to each of you. You’re
sure doing something right. It’s a credit to the hard work of
the technicians, pilots, air traffic controllers.
It’s a credit to so many others who make
there’s no doubt that we face our share of challenges.
For one thing, we need to get the FAA’s reauthorization
done this year. I’ve met
with Speaker Boehner and Transportation Chairman Mica.
My DOT colleagues and I believe that the House of
Representatives is primed to get this legislation passed and
onto the president’s desk expeditiously – even in these tough
For another thing, we need to keep working, fighting, and building to secure prosperity for ourselves and for future generations of Americans. There’s no question that the economy we preside over today is stronger than it was two years ago. It’s growing again instead of shrinking; it’s creating jobs rather than shedding them. But we’re just getting started because too many of our family members, friends, and neighbors who want jobs can’t find them – because America can’t compete and flourish in the 21st century with overburdened and obsolete roadways, railways, and runways.
We’ve all heard
the prediction that air travel is expected to grow 50 percent during the
next decade. This dramatic
challenge also provides enormous opportunity for the industry, if we
plan and invest for it now. And
while we can’t know with precision what air travel will look like during
the years and decades ahead, we do know that NextGen is the future.
Look: in some
ways, the technology we have in our cars is more up to date than the
technology we have in our cockpits.
By retrofitting aircraft and air traffic control centers with
ADS-B, advanced communications systems, real-time weather reports, and
other technologies, NextGen will make air travel safer and our tarmacs
and skies less congested. It will
cut travel times and alleviate delays.
It will make the industry’s carbon footprint smaller.
It will help the civil aviation sector, responsible for 11
million jobs and $1 trillion of economic activity, to become more
efficient and competitive.
During the last
two years, DOT has been hard at work laying groundwork for the
transition to NextGen.
We’ve tested ADS-B capability in places ranging from the high-traffic
Now, in order for
other airlines to reap similar long-term benefits, they’ll need to make
similar up-front investments.
That’s why we’re particularly excited about the tax legislation that
President Obama signed into law before the holiday break.
From watching the
news, you might think that the tax package was only about extending tax
cuts. But there’s a lot more to
it. In fact, the new law provides
businesses with the largest temporary investment incentive in American
history: 100 percent expensing of eligible capital investments for one
What does this
mean for the airline industry? It means there is no better time to
invest in NextGen, to enjoy minimum costs and maximum long-term
benefits. It means there is no
better time to plan, invest, and build for our future competitiveness.
And – not un-coincidentally, that’s exactly what we’re doing
within the department.
As many of you
know, last spring we launched the Future of Aviation Advisory Committee.
We asked this diverse group of policy experts to make policy and
regulatory recommendations that will: enhance aviation safety, ensure a
world-class aviation workforce, balance the industry’s competitiveness
and viability, secure predictable funding, and address environmental
challenges. They answered our
call with 23 consensus recommendations, not bad for an industry rarely
associated with consensus.
reviewing these recommendations now.
We’re working to implement them quickly and responsibly.
That’s why we’ll be appointing someone full time, someone
directly accountable to me, who will make sure we’re getting this done
in the right way. And we will put
in place a reporting structure so we can keep monitoring, evaluating,
and refining our efforts over time.
The bottom line is
this: These recommendations will not sit on a shelf.
They will not whither in a file cabinet.
They will guide our actions today, tomorrow, and in the years
ahead, which is already happening as the NextGen Advisory Committee
works to implement the FAAC’s recommendations.
Now, I mentioned
projected growth in airline travel, and how it can benefit the industry.
I also want to speak for a moment about another presidential
initiative with the potential to greatly increase the industry’s
economic prospects: the National Export Initiative.
President Obama has set an ambitious goal of doubling American exports
within five years. As we all
know, without transportation, there are no exports – and without
aviation, our transportation system would literally be stuck on the
That’s why aviation is so critical to the National Export Initiative, and why the NEI offers such great opportunity for the aviation industry. DOT sits on President Obama’s National Export Initiative “mini-cabinet.” And several leaders among your ranks serve on President Obama’s Export Council – including Jim McNerney from Boeing; Glenn Tilton from United-Continental; and Scott Davis from UPS. As the FAAC advised, DOT will be a champion for the aviation industry in these important forums. I will see to it personally.
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