Garret Graves (R-6-LA), a Baton Rouge native, was first elected to represent his South Louisiana district in 2014. He is the ranking member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation, as well as the ranking member of the new Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. He also serves on the House Committee on Natural Resources. Graves has been a leader on transportation and infrastructure issues, promoting projects that will facilitate next-generation technologies such as unmanned aircraft systems, advanced air mobility and new supersonic commercial aircraft. He believes that forward-thinking private and public sector investments today will mean job creation and economic growth tomorrow and will help America retain its global leadership position in aviation.
Q: As ranking member of the House Aviation Subcommittee, what are your priorities as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic?
When we talk about infrastructure, we often note how degraded our nation’s roads and bridges are. Aviation is the exception, but we can’t take that for granted. As air travel picks up, we need to continue to invest in our airports, the airport experience for travelers, technologies and the aerospace workforce to ensure America remains the global leader in aerospace. This includes technologies such as advanced air mobility (AAM), sustainable aviation fuels and air traffic management.
Q: General aviation is a significant employer in Louisiana. How does the industry contribute to the economy in your district?
This is a little-known fact, but some of the busiest airspace in the country is actually over my district, which serves as the jumping-off point for workers heading out to offshore development sites throughout the Gulf of Mexico. Large numbers of aircraft are required to service the nearly 1,900 drilling platforms in the Gulf. As a result, we have a strong presence of aviation manufacturing, maintenance and workforce training through our community colleges.
Q: AAM and aircraft electrification will be key to the U.S. maintaining its aviation leadership role. What is the subcommittee doing in these areas?
The wide-scale deployment of AAM technologies might be several years away, but to ensure that the United States is leading the way on innovative new aerospace concepts, government and private industry have to be working in the same direction. This AAM ecosystem means developing new transportation options, reexamining how we move goods, amplifying economic activity and jobs, advancing environmental sustainability and new technologies, and supporting emergency preparedness and competitiveness.
That is why I introduced legislation, the Advanced Air Mobility Coordination and Leadership Act (H.R. 1339), along with my colleague Rep. Sharice Davids. If enacted, our bill would create a working group made up of diverse stakeholders to help enable the growth of AAM while considering the safety, security and infrastructure needs required.
I’m a big believer that we need to look to our past successes as a roadmap for similar wins in the future. Collaborative partnerships like this working group will be key to ensuring not just the future of AAM, but that of other new entrants, such as electric and hybrid aircraft, supersonic aircraft, commercial space transportation and others.
Recently, the subcommittee held a hearing exploring exciting new technologies and operators in the National Airspace System. As we begin planning for the next FAA reauthorization (the current authorization expires in September 2023), it is my hope that the AAM Coordination and Leadership Act will be enacted and the AAM working group will help inform Congress’ efforts in developing and drafting the next reauthorization.
Q: What are your priorities as Congress begins to consider reauthorizing the FAA’s funding and programs?
Step one when revisiting existing programs is to determine what’s working and what isn’t. This includes assessing how the FAA and DOT have implemented the last two FAA reauthorization laws and reviewing the results and recommendations of the various studies, reviews, working groups, committees and task forces created by those two laws.
I believe one of the lessons of the pandemic has been that the world doesn’t usually fall apart when we right-set regulatory burdens, and we need to ask ourselves how we can achieve the highest level of safety while ensuring that the business community can thrive.
We must also consider how technology has evolved, continue the safe integration of new entrants, and forecast what challenges the FAA and the aerospace industry will face in the coming decades so we can work to avoid problems before they arise.
The growth of drones, AAM and electric aircraft will be top of mind for our subcommittee. With our past experiences in launching the UAS industry, we need to apply those lessons learned to these new and evolving technologies.
Finally, it will be vitally important for Congress to hear from stakeholders. We welcome ideas, input and help in identifying challenges and solutions. We are already collecting ideas and working on key items to be addressed in the next reauthorization bill and look forward to engaging with the general aviation community.