Senate Subcommittee Looks At Airspace Integration


A Senate subcommittee hearing scheduled for Sept. 28 will help to lay the groundwork for integration of advanced air mobility (AAM) aircraft, drones and other new technology into the National Airspace System. The Subcommittee on Aviation Safety, Operations and Innovation will hear from five aviation industry witnesses, four from drone and AAM organizations and Ed Bolen, president of the National Business Aviation Association. It’s the first of a series of hearings leading up to the 2023 reauthorization of the FAA.

An announcement from the subcommittee, which is chaired by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., makes it clear that figuring out how to share the airspace among all flying machines is a priority. The announcement said it “will examine issues relating to the integration into the National Airspace System (NAS) of new entrants, such as advanced air mobility (AAM) and unmanned aerial systems (UAS) operators. Topics such as the certification of emerging aircraft technologies, airspace management, workforce, and infrastructure needed to support the deployment of AAM and UAS into the NAS will be considered.”  

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

Other AVwebflash Articles


  1. This is needed. In fact, a complete overhaul of the airspace is needed, as was done when the Alphabet Airspace was formed. They screwed up when that was written… and now the world followed suit, because the US was bone headed.
    Alpha airspace should have been least restrictive airspace working up to Zulu airspace where you will likely be shot down. Now we have a mix of Alphabet and named airspace that makes little sense to a kid that just found out he could order a drone on moms credit card from China.

    • Let’s be clear, the FAA did not invent the “alphabet” airspace designation used today. In the 1990’s there was a push for airspace harmonization by ICAO, that is where our current “alphabet” airspace came from. A few of the alphabet designations don’t apply to US airspace (class F). These changes to conform with ICAO are the same reason the FAA went with the ICAO IFR flight plan form. Problem with ICAO is that no other country except for possibly Canada has anything like the VFR general aviation in the US. I see nothing good coming from this subcommittee for GA. Like the rest of the world TSA treats VFR pilots as a security risk, which if not stopped will contribute to the end of VFR flight in the US.

  2. I have little confidence in elected members of congress to be able to understand all the complexities of this issue and add value vs. just more confusion. Do they really believe they are experts in all fields?

    • Where we can have confidence in is Congress determining Climate change, Racism, and Donald Trump are the root causes of current airspace design issues.

      Don’t laugh, our current Secretary of Transportation identified racist highways and bridges a few months ago. Look it up… He literally said Racist highways & bridges.

      • He is correct. Highways and bridges were deliberately routed through poor areas in the 1950s, which were predominantly black. It might not have been conscientiously racist, but it produced the same result. Who with enough money wants to live next to a busy highway or overpass?

        • As someone, who lives adjacent to South Bend, I know for a fact that Mayor Pete didn’t live in the ghetto; but you, Greggy, are free to donate your home in your pasty white suburban neighborhood to your favorite oppressed family.

  3. With only 1 person out of 5 coming from GA, I can already see the outcome of this subcommittee. Like Paul, I fly a non-electric aircraft, which means no ADS-B. From the threads I have been following, they are leaning towards using that as a means of avoiding contact in flight. I feel like we are being swept under the proverbial rug. If you think it’s hard to see other aircraft, drones are impossible to see until it’s too late.

    • Nope, sorry Joe, Ed Bolen does not represent GA. He represents business and charter operators. Since I doubt that any of the upcoming drones or UAV’s will be flying up in the flight levels, his input is of little value to us except maybe for restrictions around airports. And why they need four guys from the drone and autonomous vehicle crowd tells me this will be a sales job to Congress about how wonderful the future will be if they just sign over all the lower altitude airspace to them. Or, this may just be an election year stunt to make it look like Congress is actually doing something. I wonder how many members of the aviation subcommittee are pilots?

  4. 66 Years from the first flight to the first moon landing. Wow. 66 months from now there will be 20 manufacturers of fully autonomous passenger carrying drones selling their products. We need to start educating the public, about airspace, now. I suggest the Weather Channel remove “Why Aircraft Crash” from the menu, and replace the segment with “Aviation Education”.

    In 10 years your neighbor (or perhaps you) will have a passenger carrying drone; in 20 years these drones will have replaced one of the two family cars.

    God bless.

    • Nah, too many people don’t like flying in little aircraft. They won’t be that popular unless and until they are smooth like cars used to be when government concentrated on its actual job, like smooth roads.

    • That may be true for pt91 operations, but I doubt any of these electrically powered planes/drones will meet current certification requirements for air carrier service. Just look at how complicated the V22 osprey, or the commercial Bell tilt rotors are, with it’s drive shafts and clutches and computers to ensure single engine operation.

      • Not sure of what your point is here; electrification greatly eliminates the drive shafts and clutches that are required for single engine operations.

        • Most drones I have seen have at least 4 props/motors (or more) to stay aloft. If one of those quit working(prop stops turning)it is not as simple as the rest will take the load. You still have controllably issues to deal with. Drones that use motors for vertical lift do not have the ability to autorotate like a helicopter when their respective motor/s quit while airborne. The V22 has drive shafts between the engines to ensure both props/rotors keep turning when one engine quits. All these issues are certification issues the FAA would use to certify a drone for passenger use, unless Congress changes the rules. Somehow with the litigious legal system we live under, I don’t see that happening.

  5. 66 months from now will be equal to about 66 years after the first moon landing. Again, what is the expected achievement? Hopping 30 miles?