House Hearing on Slow FAA Implementation shows real issue that Congress set 400 deadlined mandates without any priorities

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Lawmakers press FAA on slow implementation of key mandates

Hearing focuses on FAA responses to deadlined mandates

Both Democrat and Republicans admit that 400 may have been too many

Realistic Priorities should be a Congressional Responsibility

“Lawmakers on Thursday pressed top officials at the Federal Aviation Administration about why the agency has not moved faster to implement key consumer protection and aviation safety measures approved last year as part of a five-year agreement to fund the agency.

The Full Committee Chairman DeFazio (D-OR) at the hearing entitled “A Work in Progress: Implementation of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018”, answered the Committee’s own question in the opening paragraph of his statement:

“By my count, the bill contains more than 400 mandates for FAA and Department of Transportation (DOT) rulemakings, studies, and reports to Congress—many with the same deadline of either six months or a year from enactment. I’m a realist[1]. I recognize it will take time for the FAA and the DOT to work through the list. But I want to highlight a few mandates whose implementation is either late or about to be late—and I want to put this administration on notice that I will be monitoring progress on these mandates very, very closely.”

[NOTE: this admission was not picked up by any media,[2] but headlines abounded about the slow implementation of key mandates.]

Based on that threat, the Chairman sets HIS personal priorities [NOTE: as powerful as he is, Rep. DeFazio’s oral testimony does not equal LAW.]:

“First and foremost is the issue of flight attendant fatigue

Second is a related issue: cabin evacuations….[3]

Third is the requirement for installation of secondary cockpit barriers on transport-category airplanes…

 

 

 

 

 

Fourth is a provision I authored that removed a foolish ban on FAA regulation of recreational drones, which account for more than one million of the drones in U.S. airspace today…

Fifth is the safety and security of foreign aircraft repair stations…

While I’ve highlighted just a few provisions in my remarks, by no means do I want to imply that there aren’t dozens of other important provisions in the FAA bill in the areas of safety, consumer protections, accessibility for disabled passengers, and workforce development “

The Subcommittee Chair Rick Larsen (D-WA) provided his personal guidance, months after the 2019 Act was enacted:

 

…” One year ago, this Committee wrote comprehensive, bipartisan legislation to:

  1. Raise the bar on aviation safety;
  2. Improve the flying experience for the traveling public;
  3. Better prepare and diversify the aviation workforce;[4] and
  4. .Foster innovation in U.S. airspace

Safety is this Subcommittee’s top priority.[5]

[I][6] …the lack of modern rest requirements for flight attendants remains a critical aviation safety issue…

[ii]…FAA to issue guidance to aircrews and mechanics on responding to incidents involving smoke or fumes in cabins, as well as commission a study on cabin air quality

[iii]…ensure that the FAA efficiently integrates unmanned aircraft systems ..

 

 

 

 

 

 

[iv]…move forward on a remote identification rule

[v]…completed test flights under phase 1 of the UAS traffic management (UTM) Pilot Program.

[vi]…comprehensive workforce development title, including my provision to create a new task force to encourage high school students to enroll in aviation manufacturing, maintenance and engineering apprenticeships… With global aviation becoming more competitive, I am concerned by the FAA’s lack of progress on this mandate, as well as continued delays to establish a Women in Aviation Advisory Board to encourage women and girls to pursue aviation careers.

[vii]… improve accessibility of air travel for passengers with disabilities…passengers with disabilities can access lavatories on single-aisle airplanes—action that I required in the 2016 FAA extension.

[viii]…safety for the traveling public and airline employees by addressing sexual harassment and assault through open reporting and increased accountability.


So without the benefit of legislation, the two Chairs have reduced the statutory requirements from ~400 to the Chairs joint 12 plus another 12 mentioned by Chairman Fazio.

That’s helpful, but would not it have been better for these two powerful leaders to discipline their Members to establish something less than 400 time and result mandated rrequirements? Giving a ranking of what Congress is directing would make it more likely that the FAA can respond more expeditiously. However, to speak honestly, seeking some consensus as to a ranking of the sections addressed to the FAA is practically difficult, if not impossible.  Congress wants to set time mandates, and since time is a zero sum asset, should not the legislators BE REQUIRED to position their critical project on this list. Specifically displacing other deadlines by placing the proponent’s chosen one over another priority would be the appropriate public policy process. 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.

Congress having some level of internal discipline and political policy integrity is not likely.

Would it be fair to ask that these Members of two august bodies to NOT enact sections which contradict each other?

The above copy of the FAA Reauthorization Act highlights the incredibly inconsistent actions of Congress when it enacted §§178 and 179 which mandated that the FAA attack existing aircraft—to try operational techniques to reduce noise and to establish a noise ombudsman for each region. MESSAGE: REDUCE NOISE

In the very next provision of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 ,§181, the wise men and women elected to convey the nation’s priorities to the FAA instructed it to become the world leader on rules for SST operations. While technology has been developed to the reduce noise generated by these supersonic aircraft, these planes are perceived not only as the noisiest, but also the worst Ozone-deteriorating vehicles. MESSAGE: MORE NOISE

The FAA is not perfect and as an organization charged with assuring aviation safety, it tends to be careful, which also may be considered slow. As shown above shows, it has a very long existing agenda of regulatory priorities; so, adding 500 to its list is increasing its burden, unduly so.

 

It is also evident that passage of any FAA Reauthorization is a most difficult legislative challenge. In the past multiple Continuing Resolutions have patched the agency’s authority for years! For that reason, the Chairs managing the 2019 bill accepted requests from many, many Representatives and Senators (“agree to my proposal = assure my vote”). The fact, that the FAA is having difficulty sifting through those demands, was recognized by a Democrat and Republic leader.

Congress owes it to their constituents to create some legislative guidance on priorities – seriatim ranking, Class A, Class B, Class C…sections or at least strong language in the accompanying Reports. The Members want a reputation as being OMNISCIENT; so, they should be able to do something better than a laundry list.

[1] Subcommittee on Aviation Ranking Member Garret Graves (R-LA):agrees with Chairman DeFazio

.At more than 400 pages and almost 360 deliverables, the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 certainly gave the FAA and DOT more than enough work.

[2] Based on a thorough GOOGLE ® search. There may have been a few journalists who actually read the record!!!

[3] The 90 second Emergency Evacuation is a Performance-based Safety rule follows the policy guidance established by Congress when it passed the statute adopting the Part 23 ARC.

[4] Assigning the FAA to Promote Women in Aviation not the fastest way to that Goal.

[5] #2 and #3 are not directly related to the Subcommittee’s TOP PRIORITY. So what are the priorities? Diversifying the workforce, a great social goal, will require staff to be involved in outreach and should these positions be transferred from safety functions?

[6] Roman numerals added to aid in the quantification of the PRIORITY requirements of the two Chairs.



 

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