STATEMENT OF WILLIAM H. WALLACE

NATIONAL RESOURCE SPECIALIST FOR ROTORCRAFT OPERATIONS, FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION

BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON SPACE AND AERONAUTICS, COMMITTEE ON SCIENCE,

VERTICAL FLIGHT TECHNOLOGY IN THE NATIONAL AIRSPACE SYSTEM.

MAY 9, 2001.

 

Chairman Rohrabacher, Congressman Gordon, Members of the Subcommittee:

It is a pleasure to be here today to discuss the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) activities with regard to integrating modern vertical flight aircraft into the National Airspace System (NAS) and the benefits new technology might provide for the System's capacity. With me today is my colleague, Benjamin Hooper Harris, Chairman of our agency's Vertical Flight Working Group.

On behalf of Administrator Garvey, I would like to thank the Committee for providing this opportunity to briefly outline the FAA's efforts to accommodate modern vertical flight technology, including advanced rotorcraft as well as powered lift tiltrotor aircraft, into the NAS. This hearing is both timely and useful given the challenges our aviation system is facing. With the demand for air travel growing at about 3.5 percent annually, all of us in the aviation community are concerned about the growing demand in air traffic and the need for additional capacity through conventional means.

There are no easy answers to congestion and capacity limitations in the NAS. It is a complex situation that demands strategic planning and effort from all segments of the aviation community. The FAA is working on a number of fronts to address these challenges including modernization of the air traffic control system, improved air traffic procedures through collaborative decision making with the users of the system, our "chokepoints" initiative to address particularly challenging areas of congestion, redesign of the airspace, and development of free flight technologies. As you know, the current air transportation system is almost exclusively centered on fixed wing airplanes, supported by infrastructure that accommodates those operations.

Can vertical flight technology be part of this equation? A definitive answer must await development of a commercially feasible enterprise. But I can tell you that we believe that the technology holds promise for increasing the capacity of the NAS and improved transportation services to the public. It is only prudent for us to begin to lay the groundwork for enabling efficient operations for both fixed-wing and vertical flight aircraft. I can assure you that the FAA is prepared to integrate modern vertical flight aircraft into the system.

Both civil and military aviation are introducing new technology vertical flight aircraft with performance characteristics that are significantly different from existing airplanes. The tiltrotor concept takes advantage of the combined ability of vertical take off of a helicopter while cruising at the speed of a turboprop. Proponents of this advanced technology cite improved performance, range and, in particular, operational flexibility--meaning the ability to function independent of a standard runway--as its advantages. The theory is that a "runway independent" aircraft would have the effect of reducing short range fixed wing operations on an airport's main runways, allowing for more large aircraft operations and increasing total capacity. The FAA is conducting research to make this happen. However, the ultimate benefits to capacity will be tied to the aviation industry's business decisions on how to best take advantage of this new capacity.

Our colleagues at that National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA) and the Department of Defense (DOD) have performed extensive study and research in support of the development of new vertical flight technology. The FAA has been directly involved in sponsoring, and approving research programs to insure that they will be applicable to civil (or commercial) aviation needs. The FAA, NASA, DOD, industry, and academia have entered into a funded agreement to provide strategic guidance and joint funding for research projects through the National Rotorcraft Technology Center, thus enabling industry and academia wide access to government facilities and capabilities. This agreement will support the vertical flight community in meeting both global transportation and military superiority needs in the next decade, while increasing U.S. market share.

It is the FAA's responsibility to ensure that regulatory and operational standards that govern the NAS enhance the safety of the public and do not impede integration of viable advanced vertical flight aircraft into the aviation system. In this regard, we are already at work on development of certification standards for both aircraft and airmen to accommodate powered lift vertical flight operations within the NAS. For example, we are working with a manufacturer of a civil tiltrotor aircraft (CTR), to develop proposed certification standards for a new aircraft, the Bell Agusta BA 609. We are consolidating appropriate proven safety certification standards--from both transport category airplanes and rotorcraft--as well as developing new standards for those unique aspects of the tiltrotor design. The process involves developing and modifying proposed standards as the aircraft is under development, so that the certification standards can be finalized as the aircraft undergoes final certification. We have completed most of the certification standards, and the manufacturer has accepted these requirements. The remaining standards involve performance and handling characteristics of this unique aircraft and will be developed during flight test. The first flight is scheduled for late 2001, with full certification scheduled for 2003.

With regard to pilot qualifications for powered lift vertical flight, the FAA has already developed the requirements for pilot certification and, in 1997, incorporated them into our regulations (see 14 C.F.R Part 61). The Practical Test Standards--standards that FAA inspectors and designated flight examiners will use during the conduct of the practical test portion of pilot certification--are all in draft form. They will be finalized upon completion of the initial powered lift aircraft certification. Integral to that certification is an evaluation of aircraft operational requirements by our Flight Standardization Board, composed of experienced FAA flight operations specialists. We also have a rulemaking project underway to develop the airworthiness and operational flight rules. And finally, we are currently working with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the European Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA) towards establishment of international pilot certification and operational standards for advanced vertical flight operations.

Work is also underway with regard to standards for airport or vertiport infrastructure to service rotorcraft operations using a model developed by NASA, but significant progress awaits final development of the aircraft itself.

The FAA is also responsible for conducting research into air navigation and air traffic control procedures and to implement those services where needed. We believe that modern vertical flight aircraft, when coupled with advances in the NAS, offer unprecedented opportunities for aviation system efficiency improvement that will enable safe, all-weather transportation and emergency services. For example, satellite based helicopter instrument procedure work implemented in the past few years has resulted in significant benefits to the emergency services and the Gulf of Mexico energy resource extraction operations.

Our research program is targeted at developing better standards and operating procedures to take maximum advantage of the superior flight characteristics of modern vertical flight aircraft. We are exploring the feasibility of safely reducing separation standards, sand optimizing landing and take off profiles based upon aircraft performance and noise characteristics.

In our history, the FAA and its predecessor agencies have successfully transitioned many new and revolutionary aircraft types and systems into the NAS. Beginning in 1937, we completed the U.S. certification for the first large scale production airliner (the DC-3), then went on to certify the first pressurized airliner (the Boeing B-307 in 1940), civil helicopter (Bell 47 in 1946), turboprop (Vickers Viscount in 1955), turbojet (Boeing 707 in 1958), as well the supersonic transport (Concorde in 1979), and the advanced wide-body jets of today (Boeing 747-400 in 1989). It seems appropriate that, as we begin a new century and millenium, advances in aviation technology present us with another promising addition to the fleet--the tiltrotor aircraft.

Mr. Chairman, the FAA is prepared to meet that challenge. We will continue to work closely with our partners in industry, the airport community, and Congress to ensure that the National Airspace System has the ability to take maximum advantage of the unique capabilities of vertical flight aircraft.

That concludes my prepared remarks. My colleague and I will be happy to answer any questions you may have.

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