The Senate approved a five-year reauthorization of the FAA Oct. 3, 2018, sending it to President Trump for his signature.
The long-term reauthorization follows six short-term extensions that has kept the FAA’s funding at 2012 levels.
According to Sen. James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), a five-year bill has not passed since the 1980s.
“This is something we’ve been trying to do for many years,” he told The Washington Post. “It’s really a big, major deal.”
“The FAA reauthorization bill is a win for general aviation, pilots, and consumers everywhere,” said Inhofe, a pilot with more than 11,000 hours, and perhaps GA’s staunchest advocate in the Senate. “This legislation makes needed investments in our nation’s airport infrastructure, supports the general aviation community, improves commercial airline service, streamlines the FAA’s regulatory processes, enhances aviation security and promotes the responsible and safe integration of drones in our national airspace.”
H.R. 302, which reauthorizes the FAA through Sept. 30, 2023, includes a number of provisions welcomed by the general aviation community.
What it doesn’t incude: A provision to privatize the Air Traffic Control system.
“The entire general aviation community should be extremely proud of its efforts to oppose the so-called ATC privatization plan, which would have restricted our access to airports and airspace – threatening the future of business aviation,” officials with the National Business Aviation Association said. “Through tens of thousands of letters and phone calls to Congress, the voice of general aviation was heard loud and clear on Capitol Hill, leading to this victory.”
General aviation specific provisions in the new FAA reauthorization bill include:
- Improves transparency for pilots subject to FAA enforcement proceedings by requiring the FAA to articulate the specific activity under investigation and provide specific documentation to pilot;
- Strengthens the Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) program by requiring that all notices be posted in a public forum online;
- Ensures federal investment in general aviation airports;
- Authorizes the Aviation Maintenance Workforce Development Program, which focuses competitive grants to support career and technical development of aircraft mechanics to address a severe shortage of aviation maintenance professionals.
- Authorizes the Pilot Education Program, which focuses competitive grants enabling high schools to offer ground school courses to young people.
- Ensures the FAA updates regulations and policies related to the selection, training, and deployment of designated pilot examiners to ensure commercial and recreational pilots have access to an adequate number of examiners;
- Directs the FAA to provide air traffic services for aviation events without additional cost for participants.
- Provides volunteer pilots with liability protection when they are flying for the public benefit, such as flying patients for medical transport, disaster relief, humanitarian assistance, or other similar charitable missions.
- Directs the FAA to modernize the mandatory curriculum for aviation maintenance technician schools for the first time since the 1960s.
- Authorizes over $16 billion for Airport Improvement Program over five years, resources that are especially used by smaller, general aviation airports to support economic growth.
- Ensures the long-term stability of the federal contract tower program by updating the FAA’s dated cost-benefit analysis.
- Prevents the FAA from eliminating Contract Weather Observer services at 57 airports.
- Directs the FAA to examine how making repairman certificates portable could support the mobility of the aviation workforce.
- Requires the FAA to develop plans and strategies for integrating unmanned aircraft, like drones, into airspace and provides support to local communities on addressing the use of drones.
The 1,200-page bill includes many more provisions, including those related to the airlines.
President Trump has until Oct. 7, 2018, to sign the bill.