T&I proposes a Clean FAA Reauthorization Bill
Makes Major Basic Decisions
Passes the buck on tough Policy Questions
In the legislative process, it is Congress’ constitutional function to hold hearings to assess facts and policy questions. Their work product, particularly a bill like FAA Reauthorization, should define parameters to guide the Executive Branch. The major strategic decisions are the particular responsibility of the elected Senators and Representatives.
The Hill has been paralyzed by partisan politics; basic bills– appropriations and authorizations—are deferred because the polarization prevents compromises—one of the signatures of a well-functioning democracy. Aviation has suffered from multiple continuing resolutions, which basically play the difficult policy changes forward.
The good news is that the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee’s leadership has coalesced together to put an FAA Reauthorization bill. Many of the basic, substantive decisions (i.e. funding levels) have been drafted for passage a, but the tough policy decisions (i.e. NextGen noise) are assigned to unelected people and organizations.
Much to the Chairman’s credit, Mr. Shuster started the process to consider the FAA Reauthorization well before its termination. Though many hearings were held, and differing opinions aired, consensus did not develop. Perhaps the most divisive issue was Privatization, but there were other proposals about which the Members could not agree. The innovative, yet controversial to move the ATC to the private sector was the death knell for AIRR.
Even the casual Congressional observer knows that the 535 Members have lost the ability to find common ground because they seem more intent to define points of discord. In that context it is impressive that the bipartisan leadership of the Transportation, 6 R’s and 6 D’s, have introduced H.R.4 – FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018. In that the FAA has suffered from past Hill inability to pass a Reauthorization Bill and has been subject to the vagaries of multiple short-term extensions, this was both significant legislation for the FAA’s authority-ESPECIALLY A FIVE (5!!!) YEAR EXTENSION and a demonstration of the T&I Committee’s tradition of minimizing partisan politics in legislation.
Aviation’s safety, environment infrastructure and industry economic impact have motivated the Members to find mutually acceptable answers. H.R.4 reestablishes the decades-long leadership of Chairmen Blatnik (D-MN), Howard (D-NJ), Anderson (D-CA), Mineta (D-CA), Shuster (R-PA), Oberstar (D-MN) and Mica (R-FL) plus a long list of Ranking Minority Members!!!
Chairman Shuster and Ranking Minority DeFazio are to be commended for creating a clean bill, especially considering the politics of the day.
As to a number of provisions, there are explicit examples of total agreement by the T&I Committee:
- The introductory §§ which set the FAA operations,
- 122. Mothers’ rooms at airports
- 134.Contract tower program
- 152.Pilot program sunset–Airport ground support equipment emissions retrofit pilot program
- 251. Promotion of United States aerospace standards, products, and services abroad [NOTE: Rep. DeFazio has been an outspoken opponent to the FAA being authorized to promote!!!]
- 309.Funding for additional safety needs: the Administrator may accept funds from an applicant for a certificate under this section to hire additional staff or obtain the services of consultants and experts to facilitate the timely processing, review, and issuance of certificates under this section.
- 313. Acceptance of voluntarily provided safety information-There shall be a presumption that an individual’s voluntary disclosure of an operational or maintenance issue related to aviation safety under an aviation safety action program meets the criteria for acceptance as a valid disclosure under such program.
- 45502. Integration of civil unmanned aircraft systems into national airspace system
- in consultation with representatives of the aviation industry, Federal agencies that employ unmanned aircraft systems technology in the national airspace system, and the unmanned aircraft systems industry, shall develop a comprehensive plan to safely accelerate the integration of civil unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace system.
- Plus many specific rules and deadlines for UASs
- Establishes processes to accelerate implementation of low-altitude unmanned aircraft system traffic management (UTM) system. • Expedites safe deployment of commercial UAS by creating a risk-based permitting process. • Fosters development of sense-and-avoid technology at UAS test ranges.
- Establishes a streamlined process for the FAA to permit the operation of small UAS for certain uses.
- Requires a DOT study on the privacy implications of UAS operations.
- Directs the DOT Inspector General to assess the FAA’s small UAS registration system and requires FAA to develop and track metrics to assess compliance with and effectiveness of the system.
- Directs the DOT Inspector General to study the potential roles of state and local governments.
- Requires the Comptroller General to study financing options related to regulation and oversight of UAS.
- Increases transparency by requiring FAA to publish information on approved small drone waivers and airspace authorizations, and to provide real time data on application status.
- Not later than 1 year after the date of enactment of this section, the Secretary of Transportation shall issue a final rule authorizing the carriage of property by operators of small unmanned aircraft systems for compensation or hire within the United States.
- 41725. Prohibition on certain cell phone voice communications
- 406. Involuntarily bumping passengers after aircraft boarded
- 530. Foreign air transportation under United States-European Union Air Transport Agreement
Certain foreign air transportation permits
The Secretary of Transportation may not issue a permit under section 41302 of title 49, United States Code, or an exemption under section 40109 of such title, authorizing a person to provide foreign air transportation as a foreign air carrier under the United States-European Union Air Transport Agreement of April 2007 (as amended) in a proceeding in which the applicability of Article 17 bis of such Agreement has been raised by an interested person,
Republicans and Democrats please the unions
However, there are many more instances in which the Bill, rather than making the difficult decision to legislate, transferred to policy consideration to the GAO, OIG, Comptroller General, ARCs or some as-yet-unnamed committee:
- 112-Pilot program for passenger facility charge authorizations
- 155. Stage 3 aircraft study
- 157. Study on potential health impacts of overflight noise
- 158. Environmental mitigation pilot program
- 159.Aircraft noise exposure review of the relationship between aircraft noise exposure and its effects on communities around airports.
- 160.Community involvement in FAA NextGen projects located in metroplexes–Administrator…shall complete a review of the Federal Aviation Administration’s community involvement practices for NextGen project
- 202.Safety Oversight and Certification Advisory Committee
- 211.Aircraft certification performance objectives and metrics
- 213. ODA review
- 215.Review of certification process for small general aviation airplanes by OIG
- 231.Flight standards performance objectives and metrics with the Safety Oversight and Certification Advisory Committee
- 232.FAA task force on flight standards reform
- 234.Regulatory Consistency Communications Board
- 242. Workforce review by the Comptroller General
- 301.FAA technical training Pilot Program
- 302. Safety critical staffing-by the OIG
- 305. Advanced cockpit displays–consult with aviation manufacturers, representatives of pilot groups, aviation safety organizations, and any government agencies the Administrator considers appropriate.
- 307.Cabin evacuation–consult with the National Transportation Safety Board, transport-category aircraft manufacturers, air carriers, and other relevant experts and Federal agencies, including groups representing passengers, airline crewmembers, maintenance employees, and emergency responders;
- 316. Aviation maintenance industry technical workforce-by the Comptroller General
- 317. Critical airfield markings–the Administrator issue a request for proposal for a study that includes an independent, third party study to assess the durability of Type III and Type I glass beads applied to critical markings
- 403. Advisory committee for aviation consumer protection
- 442. Aviation consumers with disabilities study
- 507.Part 91 review, reform, and streamlining(a)Establishment of task force
- 516. Pilots sharing flight expenses with passengers Administrator shall make publicly available, in a clear and concise format, advisory guidance that describes how a pilot may share flight expenses with passengers in a manner consistent with Federal law, including regulations.
- 517. Aviation rulemaking committee for part 135 pilot rest and duty rules…the Administrator shall convene an aviation rulemaking committee to review, and develop findings and recommendations regarding, pilot rest and duty rules under part 135 of title 14, Code of Federal Regulations.
- 524. Federal Aviation Administration workforce review—Comptroller Review
- 527. Future aviation and aerospace workforce study—Comptroller Review
- 540. Study on training of customer-facing air carrier employees
- 541.Minimum dimensions for passenger seats
Not later than 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act, and after providing notice and an opportunity for comment, the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration shall issue regulations that establish minimum dimensions for passenger seats on aircraft operated by air carriers in interstate air transportation or intrastate air transportation, including minimums for seat pitch, width, and length, and that are necessary for the safety and health of passengers
- 542. Study of ground transportation options
Not later than 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act, the Comptroller General of the United States shall conduct a study that examines the ground transportation options at the Nation’s 10 busiest airports in order to…
These provisions involve some of the most controversial issues facing the Committee. Many were discussed in Hearings and the differing views were on the Record. By passing the fact-finding, analyses and conclusions to the third parties specified, the Members are avoiding resolving their disagreements and hoping that the studies will provided definitive answers. It is not uncommon that these independent reviews do not resolve the dispute and the Congressional directive is deferred.
UNFORTUNATELY A BLACK CLOUD HANGS OVER THE SENATE– Schumer Wants FAA Bill Delay Until After Elections, Thune Says–link.
If the Senior Senator from New York has his way, the FAA may again experience the anxiety of continuing resolutions. The old limits on funding and other embedded restrictions will continue (thanks to the hold of one Senator) while Congress twiddles its collective 1,070 thumbs.
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