2020 suffered from lack of Air Transportation Plan
2015 GAO Report said DOT needed to do it
DeFazio, Larsen & Beyer legislate and ask for One NOW
Redundant Research Items and Processes
2020 has been a year of spontaneous responses by the governments and industry to the devastating COVID-19.Debates, confusion, disjointed actions, demands, the absence of authority (or not), unclear responsibilities (among the globe’s governments; within the federal government; between the national and state governments), changing/unclear medical guidance and odd opposition to advice marked the year since the virus hit air transportation.
In 2015 at the request of Rep. Larsen, the GAO issued a recommendation that the DoT lead such a study. No such plan was issued.
Now Mr. Larsen and his colleague from Virginia, Mr. Beyer have introduced a bill to COMPEL a study of the right response to the next threat. Their legislation places the responsibility to lead such a coordinated assessment on the Secretary of Transportation. As noted below, HR 8712 specifies the dimensions of the mandated study. The authors then propose, after the National Aviation Preparedness Plan is completed by the DoT, the GAO REASSESS the findings.
T&I Chairman DeFazio and his Aviation Safety Chairman Larsen have written a letter ASKING the GAO for
three studies —one looking at what the risks are of air travel during a public health crisis, —another looking at what the Federal response has been to address these risks, and –a third that would identify what strategies could apply to future legislation.
Redundancy is generally considered a useful approach in aviation safety. The studies subject matters have a tremendous amount of repetition and as to the unduplicated specific research, in HR 8712 and the letter, all should be considered in any complete report on dealing with such a future biological threat.
The Larsen-Beyer proposal would create a two step process—DOT 1st and then GAO whereas the DeFazio-Larsen letter looks to the GAO only for answers. As the gentleman from Washington State well knows in 2015, the DoT chose not to initiate a study. Especially with a new Secretary (confirmation may be slow), why send the task back there?
BY ADAM GAVINE
US Representatives Don Beyer (D-VA) and Rick Larsen (D-WA) have introduced into Congress a measure designed to develop a national aviation preparedness plan regarding future public health emergencies to avoid a repeat of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The measure, named The National Aviation Preparedness Plan Act of 2020, is supported by key aviation stakeholders, such as the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE).
“Lessons learned from the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic show the urgent need for a national aviation preparedness plan to ensure the safety of aviation crews, employees and passengers,” said Representative Larsen, chair of the House Aviation Subcommittee. “This bill will bring Federal agencies, frontline aviation workers, and other key stakeholders to the table to develop a clear, comprehensive plan of action for future outbreaks.”
Provisions of the bill include requiring the Department of Transportation (DOT) – in collaboration with the Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security and other relevant federal agencies – to develop a national aviation preparedness plan for communicable disease outbreaks; directing the DOT to consult with the aviation industry, labor unions and other key aviation stakeholders on the development of such a plan; and calling for a US Government Accountability Office (GAO) assessment of the plan to determine if it responds to public health recommendations.
Some specifics from HR 8712:
…an adaptable and scalable framework with which to align the individual plans, including the emergency response plans, of such airports and air carriers and provide guidance as to each individual plan;…
…developing policies that increase the effectiveness of screening, testing, quarantining, and contact-tracing with respect to air carrier passengers…
…appropriate personal protective equipment to reduce the likelihood of exposure to a covered communicable disease…
…ensure aircraft …and… airport are cleaned, disinfected, and sanitized, and can have installed and maintained protective infrastructure where appropriate…
… identify and assign Federal agency roles in the development and deployment of emerging and existing solutions to reduce covered communicable diseases in the aviation ecosystem…
[This may reopen Rep. DeFazio’s demand that the FAA mandate passengers wear masks on airline flights?]
(1) air carriers;
(2) airport operators, including with respect to large hub, medium hub, small hub, and nonhub commercial service airports;
(3) labor organizations that represent airline pilots, flight attendants, air carrier airport customer service representatives, and air carrier maintenance, repair, and overhaul workers;
(4) the labor organization certified …as the exclusive bargaining representative of air traffic controllers of the Federal Aviation Administration;
(5) the labor organization certified… as the exclusive bargaining representative of airway transportation systems specialists and aviation safety inspectors of the Federal Aviation Administration;
(6) trade associations representing air carriers and airports; and
(7) such other stakeholders as the Secretary considers appropriate
Representative Beyer added, “Our legislation would require better future preparedness to prevent the spread of disease via air travel during a pandemic. Watchdogs within the US Government and the United Nations have both identified the necessity of a coordinated national strategy to prevent the spread of disease by air travel as a crucial element in national and international pandemic response. Our legislation would require that they do so as soon as possible, with input from agencies across the government, as well as relevant stakeholders in the aviation sector.”
This is not a novel idea, Chairman Larsen asked several years ago for a similar plan:
In 2015, Larsen requested a GAO study on the preparedness of U.S. aviation to handle the spread of a communicable disease during the emergence of the Ebola virus.
‘Air Travel and Communicable Diseases: Comprehensive Federal Plan Needed for U.S. Aviation System’s Preparedness’’ issued in December 24 2015 (GAO–16–127);
“What GAO Recommends GAO recommends that DOT work with relevant stakeholders, such as the Department of Health and Human Services, to develop a national aviation-preparedness plan for communicable diseases. DOT agrees a plan is needed, but suggests public health agencies lead the effort. GAO continues to believe the recommendation is correctly directed to DOT, as discussed in this report.”
The GAO recommended that a national aviation preparedness plan would help the U.S. aviation and public health sectors to more effectively coordinate on response efforts, while minimizing disruptions to the national aviation system. The legislation is supported by key aviation stakeholders, including the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE), Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), the Coalition of Airline Pilots Associations (CAPA) and the U.S. Travel Association.
U.S. Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and Rick Larsen (D-WA), Chair of the Subcommittee on aviation, want the U.S. General Accountability Office (GAO) to perform a series of studies that would look at the safety of air travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a letter to the GAO dated Nov. 24, the two committee chairs asked the agency to conduct three studies one looking at what the risks are of air travel during a public health crisis, another looking at what the Federal response has been to address these risks, and a third that would identify what strategies could apply to future legislation.
…Specifically, the chairs are asking the GAO to review recent government, academic, and industry research on disease transmission via air travel; to identify the various roles and responsibilities of authorities at the local, state, and federal levels; to assess the aviation industry’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic; and to create a “lessons learned” report on disease mitigation strategies.
In their letter, the Congressmen pointed out that there have been five other major public health epidemics with global ramifications within the last 20 years. There have been previous recommendations to come up with a pandemic plan…
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