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New House Transportation Chair Previews Aviation Issues

Sam Graves (R-MO-06) has helped lead the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure in the U.S. House of Representatives as its ranking member, and recently was named incoming committee chair for the 118th Congress.

As a small businessman, a sixth-generation family farmer, and a pilot with an ATP certificate, Graves has a deep understanding of how infrastructure and developments in transportation technology can fundamentally impact and benefit the economy, communities, and American livelihoods.

Graves previously served as chair of the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, ranking member of the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management. Graves also co-chairs the House General Aviation Caucus.

Recent aviation legislation sponsored by Graves includes the Expedited Delivery of Airport Infrastructure Act of 2021.

Q: You grew up in Tarkio, MO, near a general aviation airport. How did this spark your interest in aviation and lead you to become a pilot?

I grew up just down the road from Gould Peterson Municipal Airport (K57), which is named after my uncle, a World War II military pilot. The airport literally sits in the middle of our family farm. When I was younger, my brother and I, when we weren’t working on the farm, used to wash planes, pump gas and do whatever work we could at the airfield, hoping to mooch a ride or a lesson. It was those experiences that kindled my passion for aviation and set me on the path to becoming a pilot.

Q: What inspired you to help create the bipartisan General Aviation Caucus, one of the largest in Congress? To what do you attribute its success?

It was a lack of public understanding of how important GA is that inspired me to help create the caucus. We’ve been successful because we’ve been bipartisan and diligent in teaching new members what GA is all about. Almost every congressional district in the country has at least one GA airport, and it’s the ability to show members just how important those airports are to the people of their district that has made the caucus successful.

Q: The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 expires on Sept. 30. As incoming chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, how do you expect the next reauthorization bill to address GA?

My goal is to get reauthorization done before the 2018 law expires and for it to be a bipartisan product. The committee is already working in a bipartisan manner to reach out to stakeholders to gather input. This will be a comprehensive reauthorization bill that covers safety, airport investment and much more, but I’m planning to have part of the bill dedicated to GA.

“We need to make it easier for young people to get in the air, get training, and get into the workforce.”

Q: What are your thoughts on building the aviation workforce?

The shortage of aviation professionals is a problem that demands our continued efforts to address it. It doesn’t matter how much money you invest in airports if you don’t have pilots to fly the planes, technicians to maintain them and ground workers to service them. So, we need to make it easier for young people to get in the air, get training, and get into the workforce.

Q: Advanced air mobility is rapidly moving forward, and cooperation between industry and the FAA is imperative. Is there a role for Congress to aid the FAA in meeting its stated goals to ensure the U.S. remains a global leader in this new technology?

I think there is, but we also don’t want to put the cart before the horse. We want to hold the FAA accountable for meeting the milestones they’ve laid out and ensure that the regulatory framework exists for AAM aircraft to operate as soon as they’re certified. At the same time, we don’t want to do something unhelpful just for the sake of saying we did something. A lot of times, a big legislative change can set an agency back years, which is something we want to avoid. We don’t want burdensome regulations that assume how AAM companies are going to operate before they even get off the ground. It’s a careful balancing act, but we’ll be working with everyone in the aviation community to make sure the FAA is moving in the right direction and at the right pace on AAM.

“We don’t want burdensome regulations that assume how AAM companies are going to operate before they even get off the ground.”

Q: What can Congress do to further protect business aviation access to airports and invest in their future?

The Airport Improvement Program (AIP) is really the bedrock program for investing in our airports. I’ve been a proponent of increasing AIP funding and making sure a significant share of those dollars goes to GA airports. I plan to continue those efforts, while also looking for ways to improve the program. Earlier this year, the Expedited Delivery of Airport Infrastructure Act was signed into law. That’s going to make incentive payments for airport projects that are completed ahead of time and under budget an eligible cost under AIP.

“We need to find a better balance between aircraft data transparency and people’s right to privacy.”

Q: Public access to GA flight data poses potential security threats to aircraft operators. How can Congress address these risks?

We took a big step forward in addressing the technological shortcomings of the Block Aircraft Registry Request program when the FAA created the Limiting Aircraft Data Displayed (LADD) program, which ensures that aircraft owners can prevent the FAA from publicly sharing flight data the agency collects.

But we’ve obviously seen examples of business aircraft being tracked using data gathered by private ADS-B receivers, which limits the effectiveness of LADD. Some people think it’s fun to track the planes of celebrities, but those same people would be up in arms if their car’s location was free for anyone to see. We need to find a better balance between aircraft data transparency and people’s right to privacy.

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