National Aviation Day celebrates the advancement of air transportation on Orville Wright’s birthday. After perfecting the first practical fixed-wing aircraft, brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright forever transformed the world of transportation.
A few years later, innovators converged on Wichita with dreams of building airplanes for a budding industry. Pioneers such as Kansas son Clyde Cessna helped establish what would soon become the home of many renowned aviation companies and secure Wichita’s nickname as the Air Capital of the World. In fact, Kansas aviation workers have supplied nearly 75 percent of all general aviation aircraft since the Wright brothers’ first flight at Kitty Hawk.
We were together in Kansas Wednesday for National Aviation Day and had the opportunity to hear directly from transportation officials and aviation industry leaders during a roundtable event at Wichita State University’s National Institute for Aviation Research. During our visit, it was evident that Kansas remains a leader in not only manufacturing aircraft but also in supplying the workforce the aerospace industry needs through education and training facilities.
As we celebrate the strides our nation has made in air transportation, we must continue to look for ways to modernize our aviation system. After 23 short-term extensions between 2007 and 2011, Congress finally passed a four-year reauthorization of Federal Aviation Administration programs in 2012. However, that legislation is set to expire next month. Though there are a number of policy issues competing for attention on Capitol Hill, we’re hopeful Congress will soon prioritize consideration of a long-term FAA reauthorization.
Our country’s aviation system is bipartisan by nature, and we need individuals who are willing to work across the aisle to have a serious conversation about its future. Aviation reform must be approached with prudent, thorough examination and preserve our country’s first-rate safety standards. Investment in and development of U.S. aviation infrastructure cannot be ignored. It enhances our economy, safeguards our citizens, and impacts the future of America’s rural communities.
General aviation is vital not only to the Kansas economy – contributing $7 billion annually – but also to our safety and security. It enables services such as emergency medical flights, search and rescue operations, and disaster relief. It also supports firefighting, forestry and wildlife management. As we look for ways to improve America’s aviation system, we must not forget that helping the general aviation industry should be a top priority.
America’s accomplishments in aviation did not happen by accident – it took hard work, cooperation and innovation. Together, we will continue supporting this historic American industry that helps our country remain strong, secure and globally competitive, and we will keep working to make certain that all Americans have access to safe and reliable air transportation.
Anthony Foxx is secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation. Jerry Moran is a Republican senator from Kansas and co-chairman of the Senate Aerospace Caucus.