Congressional Timeline requirements must reflect the FAA’s existing regulatory reality

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Congress can and should establish Rulemaking deadline

Must be aware of existing regulatory priorities

Ignoring Significant Rulemaking Agenda merits being Ignored

A recent trend in aviation legislation is language which “mandates” the promulgation of a general proposal by a date certain. Equal to this pattern is the FAA’s inability to meet the expectations of Congress, perhaps more relevantly their constituents, to produce a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, much less a Final Rule.

Aside from the facts that the list of PRIORITY rulemaking projects is already extremely long, that the regulatory staff assigned to these tasks is shrinking, that the actual process to take a final draft from the first publication to its final implementation exceeds the statutory “mandate and other limiting factors, the basic problem is that the all-too-often amorphously written text requires  considerable effort to translate into an enforceable regulation. The well-intentioned language is just not enough to define a rule and taking that non-regulatory language results in rulemaking delay.

Largest US Flight Attendant Union calls on FAA to implement “key” safety measures passed 6 months ago

The Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) National President Lori Bassani sent a letter yesterday calling on Acting Administrator Dan Elwell to step up the pace of implementing key provisions of the FAA Reauthorization Bill that passed on October 3rd, 2018.

Bassani stated, “We are now past the 6th month anniversary of the bill’s passage and it appears little has been done by the FAA to move forward on numerous key safety provisions vital to our members and this country’s Flight Attendants.”

In the attached letter, APFA urged the FAA to act quickly to fully implement the FAA Reauthorization Bill and increase the 10 hour minimum rest rule and address cabin air quality issues and the effect on cabin evacuation that affect crew members and flight passengers.

 “These are important health and safety issues, not just for our members, but for the flying public. It is high time for the FAA to move forward on implementing these important provisions of the bill,” concluded Bassani.

Senate Dems demand update on FAA’s seat-size rule

Three Democratic senators wrote to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Tuesday seeking an update on a new airline seat size rule, warning of potential health and safety ramifications associated with shrinking seats.

In the letter, Sens. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.) and Ed Markey (Mass.) demanded an update from acting FAA Administrator Daniel Elwell on the final rule, which must be finalized by October under the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018.

Blumenthal lobbied heavily for a provision in the 2018 bill directing the FAA to issue a rule establishing minimum seat size and leg room standards for commercial flights and review any cabin evacuation procedures pertaining to seat size, according to the letter.

Over seven months after enactment, we have yet to see FAA take any action. This is unacceptable. We write today to request an update on finalization of this critical rule and to inquire about steps being taken by the agency to meet the one-year deadline, as required by law,” the three senators wrote.

“We also request that FAA coordinate with the Office of Inspector General at U.S. Department of Transportation (IG) to ensure that the new seat size rule adheres to safety standards,” they added.

The letter also cites health and comfort issues relating to shrinking seats.

“Flyers Rights has cited the smaller seats combined with larger passengers could cause deep vein thrombosis, other muscle and joint problems, and stiffness. These health concerns should be considered as a component of passenger safety and considered as FAA develops this rule,” the letter states.

The senators requested that the FAA conduct testing on human volunteers while establishing the new standards, as well as conducting evacuation testing involving computer-simulated scenarios and current seat dimensions.


This a highly transparent, frequently published list of significant rulemakings which the US Department of Transportation issues for all of the modes. Included are several NPRMs with Congressional mandates; all involve proposed solutions to significant safety risks; a couple would require new minimum rest parameters for other aviation workers; and many of them border almost a decade in gestation.

This is regulatory tool which all sophisticated Washington policy mavens know. To fail to recognize this demanding, existing agenda suggests ignorance or a refusal to recognize reality!!!

One question immediately comes to mind: if Congress wants to set time mandates, and since time is a zero sum asset, should not the legislators position their critical project on this list. Specifically displacing other deadlines by placing the proponent’s chosen one over another priority. Oh Wait, the author of a new NPRM project would have to step on the foot of the Member who favored the existing rule on the list.

What is interesting is that APFA has to have been aware that the cockpit crew flight and duty time rulemaking process took years to accomplish. It devoted considerable expert inquiry examining better ways in which to manage rest. A quick, not well designed rule will only cause subsequent debate.

The Senators’ letter is remarkable in demanding an immediate rule, but insisting on (but not legislating) added work:

  • Inclusion of the OIG, whose expertise on this subject is hard to discern, will more likely delay;
  • FAA conduct testing on human volunteers while establishing the new standards, as well as conducting evacuation testing involving computer-simulated scenarios and current seat dimensions—that will add time;
  • Adding the DVT issue.

All those “incidental additions” will add to the timeline required.

The priorities before the FAA SHOULD BE WITHIN THE LEGISLATIVE COMPETENCE, but if Congress seeks to adjust the list, it must acknowledge that the multiple variables which control the timeliness of the outcome. Neither of these demands meet this knowledge test; their ignorance of the existing requirements merits the FAA ignoring these impositions.
















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