Budget Blog: Securing the Future of Civil Aviation

Packages delivered by drones, air taxis flying over traffic, and supersonic aircraft that can reach destinations in half the time. As illustrated in our report “What’s Next for Aerospace & Defense: A Vision for 2050,” the future of aviation is coming faster than anyone could have imagined.

Our country took a major step towards that future with the passage of the FAA Reauthorization Act in 2018, which included several provisions that lay the groundwork for the next generation of technologies. But to implement these provisions and make this future a reality, Congress must deliver stable and robust budgets for FY2020 and the years to come, ensuring these technologies are integrated in the most efficient and safest way possible.

Funding for research and development (R&D) is critical as the government works to support the development and integration of new technologies into our airspace. In its newly released list of R&D priorities, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy focused heavily on some of the technologies that will change the way our world moves, including Urban Air Mobility (UAM) and supersonic aircraft. The prioritization from the White House is a positive sign of our country’s commitment to leadership in these areas, but without comparable funding, we risk ceding our position as the global leader.

There are a number of other government programs that can lay the groundwork for emerging technologies, but only if properly funded. NASA’s “UAM Grand Challenge” will provide critical data and eventual testing that will help lead to full integration of this technology into the National Airspace System. NASA’s X-59 low-boom supersonic demonstrator will inform future decisions about supersonic flight over land. And the FAA’s Continuous Lower Energy, Emissions, and Noise (CLEEN) program is developing technologies that will reduce aviation’s environmental footprint and remove barriers to future growth.

All of these innovations depend on having the necessary infrastructure in place at our airports, onboard our aircraft, in our skies, and around our cities. That’s where NextGen, the cornerstone of next generation aviation infrastructure, comes into play. While progress has been made, the FAA must have the funds it needs to fully implement NextGen in a timely fashion, so we can accommodate today’s needs and consider what further requirements are needed for future growth and technologies.

Federal employees at the FAA, NASA, and other government organizations have all worked extremely hard to minimize the disruption that came from the government shutdown at the beginning of the year, but we risk the future of aviation without a proper FY2020 budget. We urge Congress and the Administration to work together and properly fund the programs that are driving innovation in aviation.