On The Radar
Legislation seeking to boost the development of advanced air mobility (AAM) in the U.S. is progressing in the House of Representatives and the Senate, apparently propelled by bipartisan Congressional support from Democrats and Republicans. The bills, both bearing the title “Advanced Air Mobility Coordination and Leadership Act,” call on Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg to establish an inter-agency group to coordinate efforts to develop an AAM ecosystem to support widespread eVTOL aircraft operations.
The House and Senate bills call for an unspecified amount of federal funding to support AAM development. Their backers say this investment will be repaid through job-creating leadership for the U.S. AAM industry, as well as improved public transportation options that are more environmentally sustainable.
The House bill was introduced last week by Democratic Kansas congresswoman Sharice Davids and Republican Louisiana congressman Garret Graves. A corresponding bill was proposed on March 2 with the backing of Republican Kansas Senator Jerry Moran and Democratic Arizona Senator Krysten Sinema.
The legislation has drawn the support of several key aviation industry groups, including the National Business Aviation Association, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, the Aerospace Industries Association, the Vertical Flight Society, the Helicopter Association International, the American Association of Airport Executives, and the Airports Council International. In Kansas, backing also came from aerostructures manufacturer Spirit AeroSystems and Wichita State University.
In addition to the Department of Transportation, the proposed working group would include representatives from the FAA and NASA, along with the Departments of Defense, Energy, Commerce, and Homeland Security. Manufacturers of eVTOL aircraft would be invited to join the group, as would organizations involved in providing services such as pilot training and ground handling as well as aircraft operators and maintenance providers; unions representing pilot and air traffic controllers; state, local and tribal agencies; first responders; environmental groups; and energy companies.
The bills call for the working group to be established within 120 days of legislation being enacted and ready to start its deliberations 60 days later. The group would be expected to complete a review and examination of a wide-ranging set of factors needed to support AAM development and to report on proposals within 180 days after the completion of this work. This implies a timeline extending to around the fall of 2022.
Under the previous Trump administration, AAM has enjoyed significant federal encouragement and some financial stimulus, mainly through channels such as NASA and the Agility Prime program led by the U.S. Air Force's AFWERX unit. The scope of federal-led engagement now being proposed by Congress seems to be broader, involving a wider array of civilian agencies and stakeholders.