The coalition, The NASA Aeronautics Support Team (NAST), said
Europe’s R&D action plan, “Aeronautics: a Vision for 2020” issued
recently by the European Commission, directly challenges the U.S.
position in aircraft development and manufacturing, aviation research
capacity, and infrastructure.

A new, European plan to make major investments in aeronautics R&D
threatens America’s historical dominance of the aviation marketplace,
a coalition of aeronautics researchers and citizens said today. The
warning came in advance of a congressional appropriations hearing on
the subject to be held Thursday.

NAST leadership urged the Bush Administration and Congress to meet
this challenge with a long-term competitive strategy to meet the
aviation needs of the new century. NAST also urged the Administration
and Congress to make a strong commitment to current federal research
into aeronautics, the study of aviation.

“Millions of Americans have experienced the headache and
inconvenience of airline delays and overcrowded, noisy airports but
these are just the tip of an economic iceberg for U.S. competitiveness
in a $400 billion market over the next five years,” said NAST Chief
Technical Adviser Roy V. Harris, Jr. “The Europeans intend to dominate
the aviation market of the future.”

Europe Plans to Be “Number One” in 2020

The Europe Commission report makes it crystal clear that Europe
has a coherent action plan to be “number one” in meeting future air
traffic needs. In fact, the report states flatly: “In 2020, European
aeronautics is the world’s number one.”

“In 2020,” the report continues, “Europe has managed to create a
seamless system of air traffic management that copes with up to three
times more aircraft movements than today by using airports and
airspace intensively and safely…[made possible by] the development
of sophisticated ground and satellite-based communication, navigation
and surveillance systems. Noise nuisance is much reduced and large
airports can operate around the clock. Capable of flying safely in all
weathers, aircraft are running on schedule 99% of the time.”

Advancements in aviation have provided “immense” economic and
social benefits beyond the development of faster, safer aircraft, the
European report adds, positing that aeronautics research makes a
“direct contribution to economic prosperity.”

NASA Budget Woes Fuel European Advantage

NAST’s Harris, a retired aeronautics director at the NASA Langley
Research Center, said the imperatives driving Europe’s action plan and
the needs of the U.S. aviation system “are the same: a system that is
more reliable, safer, cleaner and quieter.” But while the
preponderance of U.S. discussion has focused on the perceived need for
more airports, runways, and flexible flight schedules, the European
vision is a comprehensive plan.

American aeronautics research programs, which have declined
steadily over the past decade, need to be expanded and revitalized,
Harris added, to provide the desperately needed long-term technology
solutions to America’s aviation needs and compete on a global stage.

This could be accomplished, in part, by a doubling of NASA’s
aeronautics budget over the next four years – from about $730 million
in FY01 to $1.4 billion in FY05. Consideration, Harris added, should
also be given to one-time investments in infrastructure, such as new
national test facilities, particularly wind tunnels, to support
American competitiveness.

NAST Executive Committee Chair Anna McNider said America’s
aviation community is “heartened and encouraged” by the appointment of
Norman Mineta, a transportation policy expert, to lead the Department
of Transportation, which includes the Federal Aviation Administration.
“The Bush Administration has begun to put together a team of leaders
who can meet the European challenge. But the time is now to renew and
expand our nation’s commitment to vital aeronautics research.”

For full text of the European Commission report:

The NASA Aeronautics Support Team (NAST) is a not-for-profit
coalition of citizens and aeronautics researchers dedicated to the
advancement of aeronautics research at the National Aeronautics and
Space Administration (NASA) and other agencies. NAST is not affiliated
with NASA. The NAST coalition is funded by community and private

For more information, please visit:


Anna McNider, 757/723-7677