AIAA Aviation: Bridenstine urges corporations to continue R&D spending amid the pandemic

He promises NASA will do the same

Aeronautic companies in the U.S. should not sacrifice their internal R&D spending to survive the pandemic, and NASA will help them avoid such cuts by remaining a dependable research partner, Administrator Jim Bridenstine said today.

“Now is the time to make the investments for the transformational, leap-ahead technologies that will make the United States of America preeminent in aeronautics,” Bridenstine said during an online speech and question-and-answer session as part of AIAA’s virtual Aviation Forum.

While the coronavirus pandemic has sapped travel demand and prompted airlines and manufacturers to reduce costs, “it is important to keep that funding going,” so that the U.S. does not fall behind international competitors, Bridenstine said from his home in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

He specifically mentioned electric-powered flight and the development of supersonic aircraft, both areas in which NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate plans to fly X-plane demonstrators in the coming years to pave the way for commercial companies.

Regarding electric aircraft, “what we’re trying to do is prove the standards, prove the minimal operations performance standards of these vehicles so we can take those standards and give them to the aviation industry,” he said.

Countries outside the U.S. are making expenditures on such technologies a condition of government aid. France last week unveiled a $17 billion stimulus package under which manufacturers and carriers including Air France are required to invest in technologies to develop carbon-neutral aircraft in exchange for grants, subsidies and loans.

The U.S. aid for airlines came with no similar strings, but Bridenstine cited the increased “spending and lending” by the U.S. government as an indirect bolstering of the aviation industry. He also expressed confidence that Congress will not cut back NASA’s $819 million request for aeronautics spending in fiscal 2021 as part of the agency’s $25 billion submission.

“My signal to industry partners right now is look, we’re going to be there,” he said. “If you partner with NASA, your investment will be sound.”

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AIAA Aviation: Bridenstine urges corporations to continue R&D spending amid the pandemic