Two key transportation committees – one if the House of Representatives and the other in the Senate – recently unveiled legislation that would reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration programs and funding for five years.
[Above photo by AASHTO]
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee introduced its roughly $104 billion bill to reauthorize the FAA, aviation safety, and infrastructure programs for the next five years – H.R. 3935, known as “The Securing Growth and Robust Leadership in American Aviation Act” – on June 9 and then subsequently passed it unanimously by a vote of 63-0 on June 14.
“This bipartisan bill is critical to America’s global leadership in aviation, to our economy and millions of jobs, and to making the entire system safer and more efficient for all users and the traveling public,” said Rep. Sam Graves, R-MO, chairman of the House T&I committee, in a statement.
“From the first ever GA [general aviation] title in an FAA reauthorization, to measures broadening the pipeline of future aviation professionals, to the needed investments in the system’s infrastructure and more, this bill will help secure the position of the United States as the gold standard in aviation safety and innovation,” he added. “I appreciate the work of all Committee members in developing this bill and considering it, along with over 100 amendments. I now look forward to moving this bill through the House of Representatives in the coming weeks and getting a reauthorization across the finish line before the current law expires in September.”
Rep. Graves noted the House T&I’s bill aims to improve critical infrastructure for airports of all sizes, streamline the FAA bureaucracy, strengthen the nation’s general aviation sector, encourage the more rapid deployment of safe technological innovations, and address workforce challenges throughout the aviation system. “Not only does this legislation provide long-term stability and funding for the FAA, it also authorizes the important safety work of the National Transportation Safety Board,” he said.
Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA), the House T&I committee’s ranking member, added that the bill “is a good faith bipartisan compromise that creates a safer, cleaner, greener, and more accessible U.S. aviation system. It transitions the nation to more sustainable fuels, makes a historic investment in the resiliency of our country’s airports, implements key safety measures, and bolsters accessibility and consumer protections for all passengers. Moreover, it ensures the safe integration of new airspace entrants into U.S. skies to advance American innovation and cultivate good-paying jobs.”
Meanwhile, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation issued their proposed FAA funding bill, known as the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2023, on June 12. That bill provides more than $107 billion for the FAA for fiscal years 2024 through 2028, including $20 billion for FAA airport improvement grants to support more than 3,300 airports nationwide and promote a sustainable and resilient infrastructure to meet increasing demand and integration of emerging technologies. Other key parts of the Senate’s FAA reauthorization bill include:
- Requiring the FAA to complete the last stage of NextGen by December 31, 2025, and upgrade the National Airspace System with the latest software and infrastructure, enabling the transition from legacy systems.
- Establishing a new airspace innovation office to lead the continued modernization of the airspace system and meet the needs of a diverse set of airspace users, such as advanced air mobility.
- Directing the agency to complete the next stage of airspace modernization by deploying new air traffic management and surveillance technologies and incorporating the lessons learned from previous modernization efforts.
- Establishing a pathway for beyond visual line-of-sight operations and create two additional test sites for companies to start using unmanned aircraft or UASs for package delivery or other operations.
- Extending the four-year BEYOND program, launched in October 2020, so as to further develop standards, engage communities, and informing policies to facilitate the safe deployment and operation of drones with the help of state, local, and tribal agencies.
- Supporting the creation of pathways and other “additional certainties” needed for the safety certification of advanced air mobility powered-lift aircraft, commonly referred to as “air taxis,” which are capable of vertical take-off and landing.
“The bipartisan FAA Reauthorization Act will help get the air travel system soaring again by improving safety and service,” noted Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), chair of the Senate Commerce committee in a statement. “The bill provides funding for the latest safety technology on runways, and to hire more air traffic controllers, pilots, and mechanics. The bill also sets the first-ever clear ticket refund standards for delayed flights and will penalize airlines that sell tickets on flights that they don’t have the staff or technology to operate.”
Jim Tymon, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, was one of many aviation industry stakeholders who applauded the introduction of multiyear FAA reauthorization legislation in the House and Senate.
“We look forward to working with members of the House and Senate to shepherd passage of this crucial legislation by September 30, which will ensure continued planning and investment in our nation’s aviation infrastructure and operations,” he said.