Last week, I took a flight to Paine Field, Washington for a series of meetings in Everett — many of you have had this same opportunity. For someone that is involved in supporting the aviation and aerospace industry, it is a unique opportunity to see our Washington-made aircraft sitting in line ready to take off for their new homes around the globe. It was a clear reminder of how important the industry is to our state.
Washington State has been in the aircraft manufacturing business for more than a century. It wouldn’t have been possible without the thousands of men and women that have designed, developed, built and flown the airplanes that are used for transporting passengers and goods.
The state’s Department of Transportation and Department of Commerce have been tasked with the role of leading an effort to ensure that aviation and aerospace remain priorities for Washington. While these two sectors deal with related activities, they are a bit different.
Aerospace, as the word indicates, is a combination of aeronautics and spaceflight. It deals with the research, design, manufacturing and maintenance of both aircraft and spacecraft, and is typically defined as flight within and outside Earth’s atmosphere. Other services within the aerospace industry include aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul, as well as satellite services within the space sector. In addition to commercial aircraft, this industry includes military aircraft, space, missiles and aviation.
Aviation generally deals with the design, manufacture, operation and repair of aircraft used to fly within Earth’s atmosphere, and is typically described as airports, airlines, the aircraft industry, and aviation institutions.
Washington is fortunate to have a number of elected representatives and senators that are engaged in working to support, in a collaborative way, our state departments that have a focus on the aviation/aerospace industry.
Established in the 2021 Legislative Session, the Aviation and Aerospace Advisory Committee (known as the AAAC) was tasked to develop concepts to support and grow these areas of the Washington State economy. Specifics of this committee include the development of recommendations for:
Employment of emerging technologies to include uncrewed, autonomous and alternative propulsion systems;
New, modified or proposed federal regulations;
National and international competitiveness;
State policy considerations;
Funding priorities and capital project needs;
Methods to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; and
Workforce development needs and opportunities
The committee is led by WSDOT Director Roger Millar and Commerce Director Lisa Brown. Six subcommittees were set up to review opportunities and barriers to the continued growth of aviation and aerospace. More than sixty members support the subcommittees, and they have been working since March to develop a portfolio of recommendations for both departments.
The subcommittees have engaged in research and a SWOT analysis of the sectors. They are currently developing a slate of initial policies that could accelerate the design and development of new aircraft, like uncrewed and emerging segments, and also support our legacy programs. The workforce of the future will need additional training on new equipment and technologies that will significantly change the way that these aircraft and spacecraft are designed and manufactured. Our classrooms and educational facilities will need staff, funding and research to create and drive innovation, enabling Washington to compete with other locations for aerospace and aviation investments.
It’s not just business as usual. Our state, our companies, and our legislative and policy partners are working together to ensure that the future of flight research, design, development and manufacturing remains an important part of our economy.