HELP from the HILL

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Shaheen and Hoeven introduce Air Traffic Controller (ATC) Hiring Reform Act of 2019

Markey introduces “Safety is Not for Sale Act”

Under the Constitution the Congress holds all power to legislate and the FAA is a creature of that authority, 49 USC §40101 et seq. It is their responsibility to propose, debate and pass bills giving the FAA policy guidance and oftentimes, direct specific action. The House and Senate devoted much of the last few years agonizing over the FAA reauthorization. That massive bill contains more language directing  and even sections conflicting with each other. One might have thought that the Members had had enough of aviation.

Two recent bills are sufficiently noteworthy to mention.

  1. Bipartisan Bill to restore Veterans and CTI preferences; NATCA supports

Shaheen and Hoeven Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Improve FAA Hiring of Air Traffic Controllers

Legislation Will Help FAA Hire More Air Traffic Controllers, Prioritize Hiring of Veterans and Graduates of FAA Certified Schools

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and John Hoeven (R-ND) today introduced the Air Traffic Controller (ATC) Hiring Reform Act of 2019, legislation to help improve the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) hiring process for air traffic controllers. The bill would ensure the agency is able to prioritize the hiring of veterans and graduates of FAA Certified Collegiate Training Initiative (CTI) schools — candidates who have a statistically lower attrition rate during qualification training at the FAA Academy.

“Our nation’s air traffic controllers are essential to keeping our skies and passengers safe, so it’s critical that the Federal Aviation Administration has all of the tools necessary to build this dedicated workforce,” said Senator Shaheen. “I’m glad to partner with Senator Hoeven to introduce the ATC Hiring Reform Act, which will streamline the FAA hiring process and ensure the most qualified individuals are selected to serve as air traffic controllers.”

“Air traffic controllers play a vital role in keeping our skies safe and travel moving,” said Senator Hoeven. “The FAA needs more air traffic controllers but restrictions in the hiring process make it harder to get the qualified candidates. Our legislation reforms the hiring process to help ensure the FAA can make the most of its CTI partnerships and fully utilize this program to hire qualified individuals to fill air traffic control positions.”

In order to help train the necessary aviation workforce, the FAA created CTI partnerships with educational institutions, including Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) and the University of North Dakota (UND), to prepare qualified candidates for ATC positions. Graduates of the CTI program are eligible to bypass the Air Traffic Basics Course, which is the first five weeks of qualification training at the FAA Academy in Oklahoma City. Students must successfully complete all required training at the FAA Academy to continue employment with the FAA.

However, under current law, the FAA is required to hire an approximately equal number of air traffic controllers from two pools of candidates. The first pool includes individuals who have graduated from a CTI program, along with eligible veterans. The second pool consists of individuals applying under vacancy announcements, or “off-the-street” hires. The difference in the number of hires between these two pools can be no larger than 10 percent. This limitation restricts the overall number of individuals hired to be air traffic controllers, as the lowest number of applicants by pool inherently limits the overall number of individuals that can be hired.

The ATC Hiring Reform Act of 2019 seeks to ensure that the most qualified individuals are entering the air traffic control workforce. The bill would do this by giving hiring preference to graduates of CTI schools and veterans and removing the 10 percent limitation between hiring pools. In addition, the bill includes reporting requirements on new hire performance and attrition rates.

“The safety of the National Airspace System is of utmost importance to the flying public. To meet future air traffic controller staffing requirements, the FAA needs to recruit individuals with the greatest potential for success in initial training and in the field,” said Peter Wyman, Air Traffic/Aviation Management Program Coordinator for Southern New Hampshire University. “Senator Shaheen’s leadership in this area will allow a fair evaluation of candidates to ensure that the most qualified and capable individuals are entering the air traffic controller workforce.”

The legislation is also supported by the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) and the Association of Collegiate Training Institutions.

Collegiate Training Initiative (CTI) Schools

FAA’s Withdrawal of Collegiate Training Initiative Advantage is Baffling!!!

February 19, 2014

Some Academic Lights (?) on the FAA Air Traffic Controller Recruiting & Testing Issue

August 12, 2015

FAA’s Collegiate Training Initiative was restored by Congress—ATC hiring & Air Safety will benefit

July 21,2016

[not enacted]

The Shaheen-Hoeven bill looks to be good advice.


 II. Markey introduces “Safety is Not for Sale Act”

speaks during the committee's second hearing on the Keystone XL Pipeline on Capitol Hill in Washington February 3, 2012. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

 

Markey introduces bill to bar aircraft manufacturers from charging additional fees for safety features as Boeing did

Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA), a member of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee introduced the “Safety is not for Sale Act” and fellow Democrats Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Tina Smith (D-WI) have co-sponsored the bill. The sponsor issued a press release with his dropping of his bill and explained:

… the Safety is Not for Sale Act … would require air carriers to adopt additional safety features and ensure all non-required safety enhancing equipment is offered or provided to air carriers without an additional charge. …The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and other aviation regulators did not require these features to come standard on the 737 MAX 8 and 9, and Boeing treated these systems as optional features that airlines could purchase for an additional fee.

As with many proposals, it is clear that its purpose is well intentioned. But translating the inspiration into enforceable terms is a very difficult task.

Here are excerpts from the proposed language:

  • Non-required safety enhancing equipment definitions
    • Crashworthiness improvements—this assumes that the manufacturer has “improvements” over and above that required by the 14 CFR Part 25 tests. This definition involves the most critical aspect of aircraft certification. All aircraft designs involve some carefully analyzed trade-offs; for example, additional structural elements could measurably increase safety, but the added weight would increase the plane’s consumption of fuel. It is an exercise of complex calculus, not binomial solutions.
    • Advisory and supplemental equipment may add to the array of information, but at some point, the number of gauges exceeds the ability of a pilot to scan and process these sources of data.

  • Non-required safety enhancing equipment program
    • Administrator create and implement a list which the manufacturer must provide free to an air carrier of
      • Equipment which is in the manufacturer’s product inventory of -at least 5, maybe more functions

-which constitutes a minor change to the type design

-which mitigates a non-essential function failure condition

°This raises more questions than it answers-

  • Technology is constantly be developed and improved. This would appear to require that the manufacturer disclose all/any non-required safety equipment to the FAA so that it can determine if this technology is covered by this bill. (a) the data is incredibly proprietary and (b) it is not clear if the Administrator can make the multi-headed determinations indicated.
  • The impact of this proposal may be to delay development of new safety functions.
  • As the Administrator finds this safety enhancing equipment, the FAA must then go through SHALL go through an approval process. The end result would be that the FAA mandates that a new system/indicator/etc. be included ABOVE AND BEYOND what the Type Design applicant submitted. Does that determination make the FAA liable for the mandatory inclusion?
  • The bill would require Part 25 manufacturers to be subject to this requirement. It is not clear whether foreign manufacturers with a Certificate of Airworthiness from another country will have to comply with this equipment inclusion. What if the foreign manufacturer does not have the new technology?

The statements of ALPA, the AFA and the National Consumers League endorse the Markey bill:

 

“The Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l applauds the introduction of the Safety Is Not for Sale Act, a bill that would make additional safety information available to airline pilots in the cockpit and provide airlines with more safety data about the equipment they operate, while also making onboard safety enhancements easier to acquire,” said Capt. Joe DePete, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l. “To protect the passengers, crews, and cargo we fly, the U.S. airline industry must constantly enhance the equipment, processes, training, and procedures that have made commercial air transportation the safest mode of transportation in history.”

 

“When grieving the loss of a loved one following an aircraft accident, no one ever talks about the great ticket price they paid. Safety is presumed not for sale,” said Sara Nelson, International President of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO. “These Senators are proposing legislation that is fundamental to confidence in air travel and the expectation that U.S. aviation is a world leader in aviation safety. Our lives and our jobs depend on the core principle that safety is priceless, just like every soul on the plane.”

“State of the art safety technology should be standard equipment on all aircraft,” said Sally Greenberg, Executive Director, National Consumers League. “If this bill were law, it could have saved hundreds of lives and prevented the recent tragic loss of life.  We strongly support Senator Markey’s “Safety is Not for Sale Act” which will protect the flying public.”

As usual, both bills will require more attention before they are enacted.

Lights shine down Pennsylvania Avenue leading to the U.S. Capitol

 



 

 

 

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