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New Caucus Championing AAM

Rep. Jay Obernolte and Rep. Jimmy Panetta are the co-chairs of the new Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) Caucus in the House of Representatives.

Rep. Jay Obernolte (R-8-CA), a business owner, serves on the committees on Natural Resources, Budget, and Science, Space, and Technology and is the freshman class representative to the House Republican Policy Committee. Among his priorities are a commitment to tackle major issues such as technology policy reform. Previously, Rep. Obernolte served as a member of the California State Legislature and as Mayor of the City of Big Bear Lake. In addition to owning a videogame development studio, Rep. Obernolte is a certified flight instructor. He holds a B.S. in Engineering and Applied Science from the California Institute of Technology, an M.S. in Artificial Intelligence from UCLA, and a Doctorate in Public Administration from California Baptist University.

On Twitter: @JayObernolte

Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-20-CA), who was first elected to Congress in 2016, is serving his third term in the House. He currently serves on the Ways and Means, Agriculture and Armed Services Committees. He also serves as a Chief Deputy Whip for the Democratic majority and on the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee. Prior to coming to Congress, Panetta served as a deputy district attorney for Monterey County. In 2007, Panetta volunteered for active duty, was deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and earned a Bronze Star. Growing up in Monterey County, he graduated from the University of California at Davis with a degree in International Relations and earned his law degree from Santa Clara University.

On Twitter: @RepJimmyPanetta

Q: What are the goals of the Advanced Air Mobility Caucus?

Obernolte: AAM is poised to revolutionize the way people and cargo move within and between communities, complementing existing transportation networks and helping to contribute to a sustainable future for aviation. Imagine a future where, instead of summoning an Uber or Lyft, you walk several blocks to a nearby vertiport where an aerial vehicle picks you up and takes you straight to your destination at a cost similar to using a ridesharing app today. This future is only possible if the federal government provides a regulatory structure that can enable these innovations without stifling them. The goal of the Advanced Air Mobility Caucus is to educate members of Congress about the possibilities of this technology and to promote bipartisan conversations about the regulatory structure necessary for this new industry to thrive.

Panetta: Ultimately, we’re looking to promote the U.S. as the global leader of AAM. To get there, the caucus will educate members of Congress and their staff about the benefits of AAM and the reality of what is coming in the next few years. We want members to realize that the federal government has a role to play in fostering innovative, clean flight alternatives. The caucus will seek to support the air mobility industry in partnering with industry and federal regulators, as well as working to tear down barriers that prevent the industry from getting off the ground. We’ll also explore other applications for AAM besides commercial travel and cargo transport, such as emergency response or national defense applications.

“It is critical that the private sector and the federal government work together to create an environment where consumer safety is protected while permitting the AAM industry to grow and thrive. ”


Q: Why are government-industry partnerships important to the successful implementation of AAM?

Obernolte: Government often struggles to gracefully handle disruptive industries. New technologies such as AAM bring new challenges and hurdles in federal regulation, and it is critical that the private sector and the federal government work together to create an environment where consumer safety is protected while permitting the AAM industry to grow and thrive.

In its oversight role, Congress has a vested interest in ensuring the federal bureaucracy is engaged and effectively coordinating internally during the development and implementation of AAM. Fostering and maintaining government-industry partnerships will help develop a framework that ensures the government does not get in the way of AAM, as it sometimes has in the past with other innovative industries.

Panetta: Government and industry working together is critical in any emerging industry, including AAM. For example, in 2012 NASA started to work with Joby Aviation, an AAM innovator in my district, to prove that electric flight was possible. Over the years, the government has continued to be involved, primarily with NASA research and FAA flight certification. At the Congressional level, we’ve worked to introduce and pass legislation like the Advanced Aviation Infrastructure Modernization Act, which will provide states and localities grants to proactively plan for AAM. The government also has a role to play in messaging its intentions to have the U.S. lead the world in the development of this technology.

Q: What can we do to ensure AAM will compete globally, and what should the FAA’s role be?

Obernolte: One of the biggest barriers to this emerging technology is the need to develop industry standards for certifying and approving AAM aircraft, pilots and operations. The FAA has a unique opportunity to take a leadership role in the creation of an international certification and regulation framework for these aircraft. The FAA has a long-standing practice of working with other nations’ aviation agencies to create bilateral aviation safety agreements, which provide for transnational cooperation in a variety of aviation domains. Foreign aviation agencies have often deferred to the FAA’s standards in the past, and we believe that if the FAA seizes this opportunity, we can help drive these new international standards.

Panetta: Currently, there is a real global race for leadership in this space. AAM is projected to be a $1 trillion industry by 2040, and the countries that put in place the right regulatory and policy framework will reap these benefits. The FAA will need to provide companies the regulatory certainty necessary to get through certification and into commercial operations. We want the FAA to be a standards-setter for the world, and we need a national AAM strategy. If we can do that, we’ll beat other countries to market and be able to scale faster. We’ll also be able to build up an AAM industrial base so that civilian and military customers don’t source from outside the U.S., which could create security risks. A robust base will also allow us to export our capabilities in a smart, secure way.

“AAM is projected to be a $1 trillion industry by 2040, and the countries that put in place the right regulatory and policy framework will reap these benefits. ”


Q: How will the advancement of AAM benefit the aviation industry’s sustainability and workforce initiatives?

Obernolte: AAM has the potential to help us create a sustainable aviation future. America is the most innovative country in the world, and when we allow American innovation to thrive, it opens new possibilities to grow our economy, expand jobs and export new technologies to the world, all while making our earth cleaner.

Panetta: AAM will be the first opportunity to deliver true zero emissions flight and create a new form of quiet, accessible and sustainable aviation. Aviation only makes up 9% of the total U.S. transportation emissions, but it is one of the hardest sectors to decarbonize. To meet industry’s goals of net-zero emissions by 2050, electric aviation will be a critical element. In addition, AAM is projected to add nearly 300,000 jobs by 2035.

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