House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon), who made a mark as a strong and outspoken aviation safety, consumer, and labor advocate over his 36-year congressional career, has decided to retire at the end of this congressional term. Announcing on Wednesday that he would not seek re-election in 2022, DeFazio said, “It’s time for me to pass the baton to the next generation so I can focus on my health and well-being.”
He added that the decision was difficult because it comes during a challenging time, but added, “I still have a lot of work to do in my remaining 13 months.”
First elected to Congress in 1986, DeFazio is the 65th longest-serving member of the House in U.S. history. He has been actively involved in the T&I Committee throughout his tenure, having served not only as chair of the full committee but also chair or ranking member of four of its six subcommittees, including aviation.
Most recently serving as an architect behind certification reforms in the wake of the Boeing Max crashes, DeFazio has continued to place pressure on the FAA to ensure changes are implemented. Over the years, DeFazio has been a strong voice on numerous other issues, from pilot fatigue and repair station oversight to aircraft noise, airline consumer rights, and air traffic controller staffing and protections. Among the original members of the House General Aviation Caucus, he warded off efforts to privatize the nation’s air traffic control system and has pushed for legislation to shield FAA workers from government shutdowns.
“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,” said NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen. “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.”
The National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), meanwhile, called DeFazio “a passionate advocate and fierce champion for aviation safety, transportation labor, and the front-line workers.” NATCA in 2008 recognized DeFazio with its James L. Oberstar Sentinel of Safety Award.
Said NATCA president Rich Santa: “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.”
The American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) further praised DeFazio’s efforts behind adequate airports and infrastructure funding. “His passion for issues of importance, including infrastructure investment, has fueled tremendous progress for airports, the nation’s transportation system, and the entire country,” said AAAE president and CEO Todd Hauptli. “His voice will be missed in the halls of Congress, but his legacy will live on for generations to come.”