A quick look at Chairman Shuster’s FAA pièce de résistance

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HR 302

1,205 pages

some significant changes, some reversal of policy

a lot of reports, studies and commissions

The FAA Reauthorization is intended to be a legislative exercise in which Congress revises the Act to amend flaws, fine tune other sections and add other new policy directives. As with this bill, the House has held extensive hearings the purpose of which is to gather facts, to hear opinions and ask probing questions. This bill is intended to be the final legislative achievement of retiring Chairman Shuster and clearly his deft consensus skills appears to have resulted in a bill which the highly contentious Congress may pass—all 1,205 pages.

Here are some of the major FAA specific/safety sections(there are too many to review all of the over 1,000 sctions) which Congress substantively amended the FAA’s and the DOT’s authorities:

  • The most essential action is setting the spending amounts for the programs; if Congress fails to act by September 30, the FAA has no $.
  • Extends and revises PFCs.
  • Revises substantially the calculation of costs and benefits in determining whether a tower qualifies as a Federal Contact Tower (a point made here several times).
  • Creates a Remote Tower Study (see below) pointing to the successful use of this technology in Europe for low activity facilities
  • Directs FAA to set minimum pitch (leg room), width and length requirements for passenger seats in commercial flights.
  • Prohibits use of cell phones for in-flight calls on commercial aircraft.
  • Provides FAA with additional tools to mitigate impacts of airport noise, including the establishment of regional ombudsmen, to facilitate greater community involvement.
  • Addresses consumer issues in the air ambulance industry by establishing an advisory committee to make recommendations on consumer protections, and improves the process for filing complaints with DOT.
  • Addresses sexual misconduct in passenger aviation by establishing a national task force to review current practices, protocols, and requirements for air carriers’ responses to sexual misconduct allegations, and increases the civil penalty for interfering with cabin or flight crew
  • Streamlines the FAA certification process to ensure U.S. companies can compete globally and get their products to market on time.
  • Creates a Safety Oversight and Certification Advisory Committee (SOCAC) that will collaborate with industry to streamline certification and regulatory processes and establish clear FAA performance objectives and metrics.
  • Improves FAA workforce training and development for FAA inspectors and engineers.
  • Enables manufacturers to fully utilize their delegated certification authorities.
  • Addresses delays in foreign certification of U.S. products
  • Directs FAA to set minimum pitch (leg room), width and length requirements for passenger seats in commercial flights.
  • Prohibits use of cell phones for in-flight calls on commercial aircraft.
  • Having specifically deleted “promote” from the FAA’s mission (see here) and having watched the FAA close international offices (see here), §241 authorizes the Secretary “to promote United States aerospace-related safety standards abroad and §243 to establish an international plan with an appropriate overseas representation

An award for the Congressional Conundrum of Conflicting Commands should be awarded for simultaneously:

  1. Authorizing the FAA to certify new civil supersonic aircraft that reduce sonic booms
  2. Requires the FAA to complete its noise study plus study the validity of the day/night metric plus potential health and economic impacts of overflight noise
  3. Initiating a study by the Comptroller General whether Stage 3 aircraft should be retired.


While praise for passing a Reauthorization is well deserved, HR 302 is unusual in that there are over 60 sections which do not use the decisional information gathered in those hearings and which do not exercise Congressional judgment. These provisions require reports, establish committees and/or initiate studies. The mandates involve many of the functions which Committees perform, but rather assign the work to the FAA, unnamed experts, the Comptroller, GAO or an Inspector General. Perhaps this delegation is a recognition that these 3rd parties might be better at these tasks.



Sec. 142. Study regarding technology usage at airports.

Sec. 143. Study on airport revenue diversion.

Sec. 144. GAO study on the effect of granting an exclusive right of aeronautical services to an airport sponsor.

Sec. 176 Community Involvement in FAA Next Gen Projects located in Metroplexes

(b) Report


(a) STUDY.—


Sec. 181

(d) REPORT TO CONGRESS. —Not later than 1 year

after the date of enactment of this Act, the Administrator shall submit to the appropriate committees of Congress

a report detailing—

(1) the Administrator’s actions to exercise leadership in the creation of Federal and international policies, regulations, and standards relating to the

certification and safe and efficient operation of civil supersonic aircraft;

Sec. 186. Stage 3 aircraft study.

Sec. 187. Aircraft noise exposure.

Sec. 188. Study regarding day-night average sound levels.

Sec. 189. Study on potential health and economic impacts of overflight noise.

Sec. 215. Review of certification process for small general aviation airplanes.

Sec. 222. FAA task force on flight standards reform.

Sec. 223. Centralized safety guidance database.

Sec. 224. Regulatory Consistency Communications Board.

Sec. 315. Aviation rulemaking committee for part 135 pilot rest and duty rules.

Sec. 316. Report on obsolete test equipment.

Sec. 328. Report on airline and passenger safety.

Sec. 330. Report and recommendations on certain aviation safety risks.

Sec. 331. Review of FAA’s Aviation Safety Information Analysis and Sharing


Sec. 339A. National in-flight sexual misconduct task force.

Sec. 359. Study on fire department and emergency service agency use of unmanned aircraft systems.

Sec. 360. Study on financing of unmanned aircraft services.

Sec. 361. Report on UAS and chemical aerial application

Sec. 415. Extension of Advisory Committee for Aviation Consumer Protection.

Sec. 418. Advisory committee on air ambulance and patient billing.

Sec. 420. Report to Congress on air ambulance oversight.

Sec. 426. Report on availability of lavatories on commercial aircraft.

Sec. 431. Aviation consumers with disabilities study.

Sec. 432. Study on in-cabin wheelchair restraint systems.

Sec. 439. Advisory committee on the air travel needs of passengers with disabilities.

Sec. 452. Study on essential air service reform.

Sec. 454. Inspector general review of service and oversight of unsubsidized carriers.

Sec. 502. Report on air traffic control modernization.

Sec. 534. NextGen delivery study.

Sec. 535. Study on allergic reactions.

Sec. 536. Oxygen mask design study.

Sec. 537. Air cargo study.

Sec. 540. Report on illegal charter flights.

Sec. 549. Study on cybersecurity workforce of FAA.

Sec. 557. Requirement to consult with stakeholders in defining scope and requirements for future flight service program.

Sec. 559. Report on plans for air traffic control facilities in the New York City and Newark region.

Sec. 567. Federal Aviation Administration workforce review.

Sec. 568. Review of approval process for use of large air tankers and very large air tankers for wildland firefighting.

Sec. 572. Special review.

Sec. 575. GAO study on airline computer network disruptions.

Sec. 577. Minimum dimensions for passenger seats

Sec. 601. Student outreach report.

Sec. 602. Youth Access to American Jobs in Aviation Task Force.

Sec. 622. Aviation and aerospace workforce of the future study.


The Bill is expected to be placed before the House first and then the Senate. The Hill experts say that the procedural rules will limit or prohibit amendments.

As with any new authorizations, the devil is in the details and such a deep dive has not been attempted. As experts parse the language, there will be some very interesting revelations!!!


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1 Comment on "A quick look at Chairman Shuster’s FAA pièce de résistance"

  1. Back in the day it was clear that the FAA did not promote specific US products, in sharp contrast to some of our foreign colleagues. What we did do is point out that our expertise was far better on equipment that we knew. That did not preclude providing technical assistance on equipment we didn’t use. Charlie Carey taught me that.

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