Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) toured Insitu's unmanned aircraft systems' (UAS) training facility and highlighted the impact of the recently enacted Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization on Southwest Washington's aerospace industry. The FAA bill was signed into law on February 14, 2012.
Cantwell fought to include a provision in the FAA bill that will help speed up the safe integration of UASs into the national airspace for government and commercial use. The provision opens up new growth opportunities for Insitu, a global leader in the design, development and manufacturing of UASs for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. Insitu, an independent subsidiary of The Boeing Company, employs roughly 800 people in communities along the Columbia River Gorge, including Bingen, White Salmon, Stevenson, and Vancouver.
On Wednesday, the Columbia River Economic Development Council hosted a Vancouver aerospace workshop focused on growing Southwest Washington's aerospace industry by getting more local companies involved in the aerospace supply chain. In Southwest Washington, there are 26 aerospace and aerospace-related companies, with 18 in Clark County employing more than 1,000 workers.
"Insitu is a cornerstone of Southwest Washington's growing aerospace industry," said Cantwell. "With the reauthorization of the FAA, companies like Insitu will find the support they need to drive innovation. Today marks the next step in the conversation we started in August to maximize the opportunity for aerospace growth in Southwest Washington."
Cantwell has long been a proponent of growing Southwest Washington's aerospace industry. Last October, Cantwell hosted a roundtable discussion with Insitu as well as area aerospace educators and students to highlight strategies to produce 21stcentury skilled aerospace workers and maintain U.S. competitiveness in aerospace. Demand for American aerospace products is expected to rise over the next decades, with Boeing projecting demand at 33,000 commercial aircraft over the next 20 years.
Yet there is a growing aerospace job skills gap in Washington state and nationwide, with some 21,000 new aerospace workers needed over the next decade in the state. During Cantwell's Vancouver aerospace roundtable, participants discussed how Southwest Washington's aerospace industry can be a part of the impending growth.
As Chair of the Aviation Subcommittee, Cantwell was a Congressional leader in championing the FAA reauthorization bill. The bill's various provisions reauthorize the FAA through 2015, accelerates the air traffic control system's conversion to a GPS-based network known as NextGen and provides stable funding for Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grants to invest in airport infrastructure.
The bill also increases direct access to Washington Reagan National Airport (DCA), Washington, D.C.'s nearest airport, from more Western cities by adding eight more nonstop flights. Adding more nonstop flights from the Pacific Northwest could benefit businesses that need to fly directly to the nation's capital as well as provides greater access for Washingtonians visiting the nation's capital. Cantwell recently joined the Washington delegation in support of Alaska Airlines' bid to provide the first nonstop service from Portland (PDX) to DCA. The Department of Transportation has until May 14th to decide how the additional nonstop flights will be allotted.