Collins, King Join Colleagues in Bipartisan Push to Expand Aviation Workforce Training

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine), the Chairman of the Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, and Senator Angus King (I-Maine) joined a bipartisan group of their colleagues in sending a letter to the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) urging the agencies to fully implement two key aviation workforce programs that invest in and expand the development of the next generation of aircraft pilots and maintenance technicians. As the Senators note in their letter, these innovative grant programs – created in the 2018 FAA Reauthorization bill and funded in the fiscal year (FY) 2020 Transportation Appropriations bill – will help develop badly-needed workforce training in the aviation industry, helping the industry to partner with local governments, schools, and labor groups to bolster America’s aviation workforce. In turn, this training will help close the current skills-gap preventing many Americans from accessing these good-paying jobs and spur future economic activity.

 

“Given the broad, bipartisan support for the grant programs on Capitol Hill, and among schools, industry, and labor, we are disappointed that they are not yet operating. Understanding that establishing a workforce grant program is new to the Federal Aviation Administration, we urge you to initiate them before the end of the current fiscal year,” the Senators begin.

 

They go on to highlight the importance of these two programs, noting, “The grant program for pilot education will support the creation and delivery of curriculum designed to provide high school students with meaningful science, technology, engineering, math and aviation education.  This program has the potential to grow our nation’s pilot workforce by encouraging our nation’s youth to become the next generation of commercial, general aviation, drone or military pilots. The grant program for aviation technicians will address the well-documented maintenance industry skills gap by encouraging and facilitating collaboration between schools, government, labor and industry to recruit and train the technical talent America’s aerospace sector will require to keep the nation’s aircraft operating safely and efficiently.”

 

The Senators stress that the pandemic and its recent economic impacts only heighten the need and urgency for these training programs. They close the letter pressing, “These important programs have been authorized for almost two years, and there is significant interest by stakeholders to establish them. With the end of fiscal year fast approaching, we strongly encourage you to get both grant programs up and running in the coming weeks.” 

 

Senators Collins and King were both cosponsors of legislation to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for five years, which passed the Senate with strong bipartisan support in 2018. The legislation, authorized funding for all FAA programs, including FAA operations, research and development, aviation programs, extension of expiring authorities, airport planning and improvement, and noise compatibility and programs. Senator Collins, as the Chairman of the Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, secured full funding for these programs in the FY20 Transportation Appropriations bill. 

 

Last year, Senators King and James Inhofe (R-Okla.) introduced the Promoting the Launch of Aviation’s Next Era (PLANE) Act of 2019. This bipartisan legislation would empower the voices of pilots, invest in airport infrastructure and ensure more opportunities for a trained aviation workforce.

 

Senators Collins and King were joined in sending the letter by Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio),  Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Chris Coons (D-Del.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Dan Sullivan (R-Ark.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

 

The full text of the letter is available HERE and below.

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Dear Secretary Chao and Administrator Dickson:

 

Section 625 of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 (P.L. 115-254) authorized two aviation workforce grant programs to facilitate the development of the next generation of aircraft pilots and maintenance technicians.  Congress fully funded the programs for fiscal year (FY) 2020 in the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020 (P.L. 116-94). 

 

Given the broad, bipartisan support for the grant programs on Capitol Hill, and among schools, industry, and labor, we are disappointed that they are not yet operating. Understanding that establishing a workforce grant program is new to the Federal Aviation Administration, we urge you to initiate them before the end of the current fiscal year.

 

The grant program for pilot education will support the creation and delivery of curriculum designed to provide high school students with meaningful science, technology, engineering, math and aviation education.  This program has the potential to grow our nation’s pilot workforce by encouraging our nation’s youth to become the next generation of commercial, general aviation, drone or military pilots. 

 

The grant program for aviation technicians will address the well-documented maintenance industry skills gap by encouraging and facilitating collaboration between schools, government, labor and industry to recruit and train the technical talent America’s aerospace sector will require to keep the nation’s aircraft operating safely and efficiently.

 

The ongoing pandemic-related economic disruptions only heighten the urgency and need for these programs.  Due in particular to the increased pace of aviation sector retirements in recent months, when industry business conditions return to pre-pandemic levels, the need for pilots and technicians will be more acute than before.  By awarding grants now to encourage innovation in training and recruitment, the federal government can have a positive and lasting impact on the aviation workforce, as intended by Congress.

 

These important programs have been authorized for almost two years, and there is significant interest by stakeholders to establish them.  With the end of fiscal year fast approaching, we strongly encourage you to get both grant programs up and running in the coming weeks.

 

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