WASHINGTON, D.C. — The House of Representatives has unanimously approved a bipartisan FAA extension that ensures the FAA is funded through Sept. 30, 2017. Current FAA reauthorization expires July 15.
Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) and Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Ranking Member Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) sponsored the measure, H. Res. 818, the “FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016.”
“This extension provides stability to our aviation system over the next 14 months, and includes limited but critical and time-sensitive provisions to improve aviation safety and security,” Shuster said. “Today’s measure reflects the bipartisan, bicameral agreement reached with Senate leaders, and I look forward to the Senate sending it to the president before the current FAA authorization expires on Friday. With this extension in place, Congress can continue to develop a long-term, comprehensive FAA bill that includes many additional reforms and improvements to our aviation system.”
“While I would have rather moved a comprehensive long-term FAA reauthorization, this legislation reflects a bipartisan compromise that provides more than a year of certainty and includes a number of time-sensitive safety and security provisions that will better protect our nation’s airspace and air travelers,” said DeFazio.
The FAA funding extension, which heads to the Senate next for a vote — expected soon so the president can sign the bill before the July 15 deadline — includes language to reform the current third-class medical certification system.
The aeromedical reform language in the bill has already passed the Senate three times in various measures since last December, according to officials with the Experimental Aircraft Association, which has been lobbying — along with the officials from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) — for reform for years.
“This bill is not yet law, but this is a major step forward and makes us more optimistic that our efforts can finally reach the finish line,” said Jack J. Pelton, EAA’s CEO/chairman. “EAA and AOPA have put in exhaustive efforts on this priority, working directly with leadership in both the House and Senate. We urge the Senate to take up this legislation quickly so it can further advance toward becoming law.”
After the president signs the bill into law, the FAA will have up to one year to develop and issue regulations before the new third class medical provisions become effective.
But a 10-year reachback will allow many pilots who have held a valid medical certificate or special issuance within the past decade to fly without needing another FAA medical exam, EAA officials note. Instead pilots will be able to be examined by their personal physician every four years and take an online aeromedical factors course every two years to remain medically qualified to fly.
Comparing the scope of the bill’s coverage with the original petition filed by EAA and AOPA in 2012, the legislation greatly expands the number of pilots and aircraft who will be eligible to fly under third-class medical reforms, EAA officials said.
- Up to 4 seats, 180 hp, single-engine, fixed gear
- Day VFR Only
- Up to 1 passenger
- Altitude Restrictions: Up to 10,000 feet or up to 2,000 feet AGL
New Legislative Reforms
- Up to 6 seats, up to 6,000 pounds (no limitations on horsepower, number of engines, or gear type)
- Day and Night VFR and IFR
- Up to 5 passengers
- Altitude Restrictions: Up to 18,000 feet MSL
“We have been working day in and day out to win much needed medical reforms for pilots, and the inclusion of those reforms in the FAA extension, and the House’s overwhelming support puts us one step closer to getting this to the President’s desk,” added AOPA President Mark Baker.
In addition to medical reforms, the legislation requires the FAA to develop regulations for marking towers between 50 and 200 feet tall to improve their visibility to low-flying aircraft and help prevent accidents. Other provisions would expand the Transportation Security Administration’s PreCheck program and provide protections to airline passengers, including ensuring families can sit together, allowing passengers to deplane after long waits on the tarmac, and providing fee refunds for lost and delayed baggage.