Aviation Associations, including AAAE, NBAA, NATCA, and NASAO expressed their appreciation to Oregon Congressman and House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-4-OR), who for more than three decades has been a passionate advocate and fierce champion for aviation safety, transportation labor, and the front-line workers who power the engine that drives our nation’s economy. DeFazio announced recently that he will not seek re-election in 2022.
American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) President and CEO Todd Hauptli said that for nearly four decades, Chair DeFazio has served the people of Oregon with dedication and distinction. “His passion for issues of importance, including infrastructure investment, has fueled tremendous progress for airports, the nation’s transportation system, and the entire country. His voice will be missed in the halls of Congress, but his legacy will live on for generations to come. I am personally grateful for his leadership and his friendship over the 30 years I have had the privilege of working with him.”
National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) President and CEO Ed Bolen lauded Rep. DeFazio’s longtime service to the country and decades-long commitment to protecting the nation’s aviation system, following the announcement of his intent to retire from Congress at the end of his current term.
“Congressman DeFazio has been extraordinarily thoughtful, thorough and hard-working in everything in which he has been involved, including an in-depth understanding of, and appreciation for, matters affecting our national aviation community,” Bolen said. “I believe his tenure in Congress reflects the very dedication to policy and public service the framers of the Constitution must have had in mind when establishing the House of Representatives.”
DeFazio is perhaps best known for his steadfast work to develop and maintain a robust multimodal national transportation system. He has also played a key role in reauthorizing funding for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and is among the original members of the House General Aviation Caucus, a group formed with NBAA’s support in 2009, to inform lawmakers and staff about the importance of general aviation to the nation’s economy and transportation system.
In a 2016 “Capital View” column for NBAA’s Business Aviation Insider magazine, DeFazio provided a thorough explanation of the reasons behind his opposition to the then-current movement on Capitol Hill to privatize the nation’s air traffic control (ATC) system. He further expressed his staunch support for maintaining FAA oversight of ATC and pledged to “continue to fight to preserve Americans’ right to use the airspace that belongs to all of us, not special interests.”
In announcing his retirement, DeFazio said it was “time for me to pass the baton to the next generation, so I can focus on my health and well-being,” adding he still has “a lot of work to do in my remaining 13 months” in office.
Greg Pecoraro, National Association of State Aviation Officials (NASAO) President and CEO, thanked the Congressman for his leadership in Transportation policy, and commitment to strengthening safety and improving infrastructure in the world’s best Aviation System.
National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) President Rich Santa noted the 20,000 aviation safety professionals that NATCA represents owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Chairman DeFazio, who has had their backs at all times, fighting for them and for the safety of the National Airspace System. “Our relationship with him goes back to our earliest days of advocacy. He has always understood the power of the word union and his intense curiosity always led him to seek a deeper understanding of how our members do their jobs and what our most important issues are as we have continued to try and make the system safer and make our members’ lives better.”
In 2008, NATCA presented DeFazio with the James L. Oberstar Sentinel of Safety Award, which is named for the late Minnesota congressman who served as T&I chairman from 2007 to 2011. It is NATCA’s highest award for those outside the Union and honors aviation leaders who have displayed outstanding achievement in the advancement of aviation safety. DeFazio was honored, in part, because of his unwavering support of NATCA members from 2006-2009 in which the FAA imposed work and pay rules on NATCA’s members. He stood with NATCA and our membership during the fight, and he was also one of the key leaders on legislation to amend Title 49 of the U.S. Code that ultimately provided a fair collective bargaining process for FAA employees.
Most recently, DeFazio fought tirelessly on behalf of NATCA members and all federal employees to speak out against a government shutdown that lasted a record 35 days from Dec. 22, 2018, to Jan. 25, 2019, and degraded aviation safety. He spoke at NATCA’s rally on Capitol Hill on Jan. 10, 2019, stating, “So when are we going to end this damn thing? Today! I am sorry you have to be here. This is ridiculous.”
DeFazio followed that up with swift action, convening a hearing on Feb. 13, 2019, to examine the effects of the shutdown and how it put the safety of U.S. aviation at risk. Later that year, he joined with T&I Aviation Subcommittee Chair Rick Larsen, D-Wash., and Reps. Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio, and Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., in leading the introduction of H.R. 1108, the Aviation Funding Stability Act of 2019, bipartisan legislation that would protect FAA programs and personnel and the U.S. aviation system from the effects of future shutdowns. Earlier this fall, DeFazio led an effort to re-introduce the legislation – now named the Aviation Funding Stability Act of 2021 (H.R. 4042) – in the 117th Congress. NATCA strongly supports the bipartisan bill, which would authorize the FAA to draw from the Airport & Airway Trust Fund for 30 days in the event of a government shutdown, ensuring the system continues to operate safely and efficiently.
DeFazio has spoken several times at NATCA’s legislative advocacy conference, NATCA in Washington. During one notable appearance, he stated, “Our aviation system is the largest, busiest, and safest system in the world. Thank you for your work, keeping millions of passengers safe on a daily basis. Aviation is critical in the U.S.; 12% of the U.S. economy links us to the rest of the world. And if we didn’t have you as aviation safety professionals doing your jobs efficiently, we wouldn’t be able to fly.”