Chairman Shuster should be commended for making passage of the 2015 FAA Reauthorization Act (now designated Aviation Innovation, Reform and Reauthorization Act (AIRR)) priority. He began teeing up the issues over a year ago and called for ideas which would be “transformational.” AINOnline’s Kerry Lynch has reviewed the legislative answers which various segments of the industry seek, but for the Congressional cognoscenti, with only 9 legislative days until the expiration of the previous authorization act and only 33 days on which the House may due business before the end of 2015, the likelihood that a bill with any controversial elements will pass by either milestone is small.
Ms. Lynch does a superb job of summarizing the key provisions for industry that may be found in some draft of the AIRR (no version of AIRR has been released). Even some of these provisions may encounter opposition (links to prior hearings/analysis may be include):
- streamline certification and improve aviation safety,
- unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) integration,
- Pilot Bill of Rights 2 (reduction of medical qualification), and
- a variety of other issues.
Each of these proposals has opponents on the Hill and within the aviation lobbying community; all of them have strong proponents. Whether any pass will be determined by which sides have the greater clout.
The truly transformational concept is Shuster’s alteration of the FAA’s ATO into an independent, not-for-profit corporation. The aviation community has yet to publically express any consensus on this critical element. Even the academic, think tank experts have substantive differences in their preferred solution. When the focus moves from the macro level to the details, there are substantial questions which MUST be answered BEFORE a practical bill is enacted. Perhaps behind-the-scenes compromises on the major points of conflict are being made, but in the absence of an emerging consensus, it is fair to forecast that AIRR in its truly transformational form will not pass this year.
Aviation has not evidenced as a top priority for the Obama Administration. The President has not mentioned NextGen in any of his State of the Union speeches (2013 or 2014). After aggressive efforts by the trade associations, no mention of aviation was included in the last party platforms.
If AIRR is not enacted by the end of this year (some form of an extension without substantive changes is almost guaranteed), the issue of the constitutional change of ATO will be prominent in a Presidential Campaign year. It might not be all bad to have the major candidates take a position on NextGen and AIRR’s transformational provision.
Do you agree?