November 14, 2019

Cardin Legislation Would Accelerate Development of Quieter Airplanes

Based on Cardin bill, Senate Commerce Committee boosts NASA research into electric airplanes during Wednesday session

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) introduced legislation this week, the Cleaner, Quieter Airplanes Act (S. 2837) that would make it a priority of the U.S. Government, through the National Aeronautics & Space Administration’s (NASA), to boost research into electric aircraft technology. Such authority would transform America’s aviation industry to develop airplanes that produce less greenhouse gas pollution and less noise, keeping domestic aviation companies competitive with the international industry. Joining in the bill introduction were Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Angus King (I-Maine), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). Congressman Don Beyer (D-Va.-08) has introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives. Also this week, the Senate Commerce Committee included language from the Cleaner, Quieter Airplanes Act in the NASA Reauthorization that was approved Wednesday.

“Air travel is important to our way of life and it is a key sector of our economy. But as air traffic volumes increase, so has exposure to noise and air pollution that has an adverse impact on our communities and environment. This has been a problem in Maryland, and it cries out for a long-term solution. We need to harness American ingenuity and find a new way to support our thriving aviation industry while addressing these concerns,” said Senator Cardin. “Government-funded research undertaken by NASA in collaboration with industry partners is critical to the development of new technologies and concepts in electric aircraft.”

“For years, I have fought against disruptive flight paths and excessive airplane noise in communities impacted by our region’s airports. While we must continue working with our communities and the FAA to resolve these issues, the development of cleaner, quieter airplanes is an important step towards a sustainable, long-term solution. That’s why I’m pleased to join in the introduction of this legislation. I will continue working to support communities impacted by aircraft noise and the development of permanent solutions for the future,” said Senator Van Hollen.

“Massachusetts communities have experienced increased airplane noise as air traffic around Logan International Airport has grown," said Senator Warren. "We must prioritize the health and wellbeing of families throughout the Commonwealth, and we can cut noise and carbon pollution from commercial airplanes in half by passing the Cleaner, Quieter Airplanes Act and making critical investments in new designs and technology.”

“In the fight to reduce carbon emissions, we need to look at every segment of our society, and that includes our aviation industry,” said Senator King. “Moreover, noise pollution can highly affect people’s health and quality of life. NASA employs some of the brightest minds in the world – so let’s put them to work on a project of global urgency that reduces our environmental impact, improves our public health, and enhances the livability of our communities.”

"Climate chaos is the most pressing challenge of our lifetimes," said Senator Merkley. "From longer, more extreme wildfire seasons, to frequent torrential floods and dangerous winter storms, every corner of our nation is affected. It's time for Congress to take bold, meaningful steps toward curbing the carbon pollution that is driving the crisis. Aviation is one of the most challenging areas to reduce emissions, but by encouraging airlines to adopt new, clean technology, we can help drastically cut carbon pollution, while also reducing the noise emissions that disturb people who live near airports."

“Airplane noise and pollution is a serious problem in California communities,” said Senator Feinstein. “By fostering the development of a new generation of cleaner, quieter airplanes, we can drastically reduce noise and emissions while still supporting the air travel industry that millions of Americans rely on every day.” 

Cleaner, Quieter Airplanes Act (S. 2837)

Aviation currently accounts for approximately 3 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, but emissions from this sector are expected to triple by 2050. In addition, as air traffic volumes increase, communities are increasingly impacted by noise pollution from airplanes.

This legislation sets a goal for cleaner, quieter airplanes by 2030 (regional transport planes) and 2040 (single-aisle planes), and it authorizes NASA to accelerate its work developing and demonstrating the technologies to make this goal a reality.

Specifically, this bill:

  • Establishes an ambitious goal of commercial airplanes emitting 50 percent less carbon and 50 percent less noise compared to 2019 levels by 2030 for regional planes and 2040 for larger, single-aisle planes.
  • Authorizes NASA to accelerate its work on electrified propulsion systems and the integration of multiple technologies and airframe concepts to achieve noise and emissions reductions.
  • Challenges NASA to work with industry partners to carry out flight tests by 2025 and to bring new airplanes into service between 2030 and 2040.
  • Authorizes $1.2 billion in appropriations over six years in order to achieve this goal.
  • Requires NASA to provide guidance on new technologies to help the FAA’s work to ensure the safe and effective deployment of these technologies.

Besides the benefits of less pollution and lower noise impacts on our communities, the initiative established in this legislation will help drive industry growth and innovation, maintain our competitiveness with other countries that are moving aggressively on electrified propulsion technologies, and ensure that United States airlines can fly with U.S.-generated technology to other countries that adopt stricter standards for noise and emissions.

By setting an ambitious goal and challenging NASA to work in collaboration with industry partners, this bill will help drive innovation, economic competitiveness, and a transformational shift to a cleaner, quieter, more sustainable aviation industry.

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