Senators Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), both GA pilots, introduced the legislation (S.1752) in the Senate on May 21 along with Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.). A bipartisan companion bill is expected to be introduced in the House next week.
As the nation’s airlines continue to rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic, the commercial aviation industry faces a long-term shortage of qualified professionals, which encompasses pilots, technicians, and maintenance professionals. The NCAA will focus on the different sectors, addressing workforce needs, expanding opportunities, and improving safety.
“We are thrilled to see something so important be acknowledged by leaders on Capitol Hill,” said AOPA President Mark Baker. “The aviation and aerospace industries are facing tremendous demands for highly qualified professionals in all sectors: general, commercial, and military. Recruiting and training more pilots, mechanics, and technicians is vital to ensure that the U.S. aviation industry remains competitive and prepared for the future.”
The NCAA would help the industry overcome that shortage by shaping a generation of new pilots, aerospace engineers, unmanned aircraft systems operators, aviation maintenance technicians, and others. The center would also create the resources needed by curriculum developers to integrate science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education, and leverage knowledge and expertise among industry sectors. In addition, the NCAA would house a central source for economic and safety data research, enable greater opportunities for apprenticeships, and help military veterans and others transition to well-paying aviation technical jobs.
“As we continue to advance as a nation, we are in need of a center to address the demands and challenges associated with our growing aviation industry,” Inhofe said. “The National Center for the Advancement of Aviation will empower a collaborative process to promote aviation in the United States and enable the development of the next generation of aviation and aerospace workers. As a pilot myself, I am proud to continue to advocate for aviation stakeholders and introduce this bill today alongside Sens. Duckworth and Hyde-Smith to establish the NCAA.”
“As a pilot, I know that investing in aviation-focused education and workforce development programs helps attract and retain the best talent and keeps our nation at the forefront of global aviation innovation,” said Duckworth. “I’m proud to introduce the National Center for the Advancement of Aviation Act with Sen. Inhofe to support the development of next-generation aviators and foster collaboration in the aviation and aerospace industries to help meet the demands and challenges of tomorrow.”
“To build on U.S. leadership in aviation, we must make a concerted effort to focus on education, workforce development, research, and collaboration,” Hyde-Smith said. “The National Center for the Advancement of Aviation would pool resources of all aviation and aerospace stakeholders to chart a strong future for our national aviation system. I believe it will also benefit Mississippi’s growing aviation and aerospace sector.”
“Florida’s aviation and space industries are critical to both the state’s economy and America’s national security interests,” Rubio said. “I’m proud to join Senator Inhofe and colleagues in reintroducing the National Center for the Advancement of Aviation Act, which would promote the continued innovation and growth of these industries.”
“Creating a National Center for the Advancement of Aviation would keep the United States on the leading edge of aviation and aerospace technology, while cultivating the next generation of pilots and workers,” Wyden said. “I’m proud to join this effort to create an NCAA to spur innovation in the fields of aviation and aerospace.”
No general fund taxpayer dollars would be used to support the NCAA. The legislation calls for funding the initiative with a very small contribution from the aviation trust fund, which receives funding from the actual users of the aviation system through fees and fuel taxes. It is also anticipated that private sector funding would be provided. Users of the national aviation system currently pay for nearly all the costs associated with the operations of the FAA, air traffic control modernization, and airport construction projects. Moreover, the proposed center would be prohibited from involvement in any political or legislative activity.
The center would allow the FAA to focus on its core priorities of getting more designated pilot examiners in the field, fixing the special issuance medical process, ensuring that our airports remain safe and vibrant, and continue to modernize our air traffic system.