Edmonds Community College and its Washington Aerospace Training and Research Center are helping to train skilled aviation workers for the state and the nation. In 2001, U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell helped land initial funding to help grow a training program in advanced aviation materials started at Edmonds CC. Since then, the college's capacity in aerospace training and advanced manufacturing training has grown.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) applauded the Senate’s passage of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill. The bill reauthorizes the FAA through 2015, accelerates the air traffic control system’s conversion to a GPS-based network, known as NextGen, and provides stable funding to invest in airport infrastructure. The reauthorization will support 12,000 Washington state construction and related jobs over its lifetime. The legislation has already passed the House and now heads to President Obama for his signature.
“This bipartisan bill is a winner for aviation innovation and job growth in Puget Sound,” said Cantwell, the Chair of the Senate Aviation Subcommittee. “It will support 12,000 Washington jobs as Washington’s airports modernize to support regional growth. This long overdue bill will help bring our aviation navigation system into 21st century GPS technology. That means friendlier skies, fewer delays for travelers, greater efficiency for airlines, and new aviation jobs.”
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s most recent Air Travel Consumer Report, 13 percent of flights to Sea-Tac didn’t arrive on time, while 9 percent of flights from the airport didn’t depart on time. The causes of delay are numerous and depend on factors in multiple airports.
Implementing NextGen, a GPS-based air traffic control system, will allow aircraft to move more precisely into and out of airports and allow large airports to better operate multiple runways simultaneously. The FAA estimates that NextGen would reduce flight delays by at least 20 percent nationwide by 2018 – making the entire system more efficient and effective.
Sea-Tac’s “Greenier Skies” initiative, a pilot project of advanced flight navigation technology, is giving airports around the nation a model for how to transition to NextGen technology and demonstrating its benefits. Thanks to fewer delays and more direct flight paths, Sea-Tac estimates that NextGen and Greener Skies will save a combined 175,000 gallons of fuel each month and reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by 22,400 metric tons, or the equivalent of taking 4,100 cars off the road.
Developing NextGen is helping support local innovators, like GE Naverus in Kent. The company employs 70 people and is a leader in designing the software for precision landing and takeoffs using GPS. The FAA bill also extends the authorization of the Federal Aviation Administration Center of Excellence for Advanced Materials for Transportation Aviation Structures (AMTAS) at the University of Washington.
Research performed at AMTAS helped develop the composite processing and adhesive bonding that contributed towards successful FAA certification of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
Beyond expanding the marketplace for aviation innovators, the FAA bill will also support construction jobs. The FAA bill creates stable funding for Airport Improvement Funds (AIP) to expand airport capacity and to improve infrastructure and safety. Over the lifetime of the FAA bill, the AIP grants will support more than 300,000. In 2011, Sea-Tac was awarded nearly $20 million in AIP grants to help construct a new runway and infrastructure to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions from aircraft.
Increasing capacity for passengers and planes are key uses of the AIP grants. Lack of airport capacity is a cause of delay in airports nationwide. Typically, when airport utilization capacity hits 60 percent, it indicates a need to plan for expansion, while 70 percent capacity causes dramatic delays. According to a study by the Washington State Department of Transportation, Sea-Tac will exceed 100 percent of its operating capacity by 2030.
The FAA modernization comes at a crucial time. America’s passengers and cargo airlines drive nearly 11 million jobs and $1.2 trillion in annual economic activity, yet America is the only Western nation that still relies on a 60-year-old, ground-based air traffic control system instead of the more efficient, satellite-based system used by other developed nations. Projections indicate a significant increase in demand for air travel over the next 15 years, and the nation’s current air traffic system is quickly reaching its capacity.
As chair of the Senate Aviation Subcommittee, Cantwell has long championed the FAA reauthorizations. During last week’s hearing, Committee Chairman Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) recognized her leadership in support of the effort:
“[Senator Cantwell has] worked tirelessly to get this bill done,” Rockefeller said. “She’s made substantial contributions to the entire bill both in the area of slots but most notably on NextGen. And just for our Committee’s interest, from my point of view, I told her at the caucus that she was going to be the point-person on NextGen. She’s brilliant on technology and all those things and she’s very organized. So this bill marks the first of many major contributions she’s going to make.”
Cantwell has long fought to advance and modernize the nation’s aviation economy and skilled workforce. Soon after taking office, she passed legislation as part of a previous FAA reauthorization bill creating AMTAS at the University of Washington.
The center leads the industry’s research of advanced aviation materials, such as composites and aluminum alloys, for use in future aircraft.
In 2001, Cantwell also helped land initial funding to help grow a training program in advanced aviation materials started in the late '90s at Edmonds Community College.
Since then, several other training programs at the state level have spun off from these initial programs and are currently helping to produce skilled aviation workers for the state and nation using state and federal funds.