Yesterday, I spoke with members of the Aero Club of Washington, DC, on the “state of the skies” and our flight plan for American aviation.
First, I wanted the Aero Club--and blog readers--to know that our skies are the safest they’ve ever been. And they’re getting safer all the time. But, that doesn’t mean there isn't more work to do. Safety will always be our number one priority.
One way we can improve aviation safety is through the Federal Aviation Administration's continued progress on NextGen. By equipping aircraft and air traffic control centers with ADS-B, advanced communications systems, real-time weather reports, and other technologies, NextGen will make air travel safer.
NextGen will also ease congestion on tarmacs and in the skies. It will cut travel times and alleviate delays. It will make the industry’s carbon footprint smaller.
With air travel expected to grow 50 percent during the next decade, NextGen's benefits cannot be overestimated.
But, given the President’s goal of doubling American exports within five years, NextGen is also essential to support trade.
As President Obama said during his State of the Union address Tuesday evening, America’s transportation infrastructure is critically important to our economic security. We need to keep working, fighting, and building to secure prosperity for ourselves and for future generations of Americans. So there is no better time to invest in NextGen and in other enhancements, like runways upgrades and innovative airport technologies.
The two dramatic challenges--rapid 50 percent growth and the President's National Export Initiative--also provide enormous opportunity for the industry, but only if we plan and invest now. It’s essential that we help the industry became as efficient and competitive as possible.
And through the Future of Aviation Advisory Committee, whose recommendations we’re reviewing now, we’ve already started that process. We’re working to implement them quickly and responsibly. That’s why I’ll be appointing someone full time, directly accountable to me, who will make sure we’re getting this done in the right way. And we will put in place a reporting structure so we can keep monitoring, evaluating, and refining our efforts over time.
America became the greatest nation in the world in part because we have excelled in transportation. There can be no strong economy without moving people and goods safely and reliably from one place to another. Without transportation, there can be no exports, and without aviation our transportation system would literally be stuck on the ground.
So, while we should take a moment to appreciate the safety of our skies, we cannot afford to pause too long. Now is the time to rebuild and strengthen our transportation infrastructure, and without a doubt that includes aviation.