Devil’s in the details of FAA reauthorization

 - January 29, 2007, 11:00 AM

H.R.2115, the House of Representatives’ “Vision 100–Century of Aviation Reauthorization Act,” was combined with S.842, the Senate’s “Aviation and Investment Act,” and was more commonly known as the FAA reauthorization bill. The bill made its tortuous way through the House and a joint conference committee, and it was finally approved by the Senate in late November. President Bush signed it on December 16.

In its findings, Congress stated that the total effect of civil aviation on the U.S. economy exceeds $900 billion annually and accounts for 9 percent of the gross national product and 11 million jobs in the national workforce. Civil aviation products and services generate a significant surplus for U.S. trade accounts and contribute substantially to the number of the nation’s highly skilled, technologically qualified workforce.

The bill contains numerous provisions, covers a broad range of programs and activities and will provide the FAA with $59 billion for the next four years. For complete text of the bill, log on to and search for “H.R.2115.”
A recap of the more pertinent sections of H.R.2115, which covers fiscal years 2004 to 2007, follows:

Sec. 101: Airport planning and development and noise-compatibility planning and programs–Authorizes $3.4 billion for FY 2004 and increases annually to reach $3.7 billion for FY 2007.
Sec. 102: Air Navigation facilities and equipment–Provides $3.1 billion for FY 2004 and FY 2007, with slightly lower amounts for FY 2005 and FY 2006.
Sec. 103: FAA operations–For salaries, operations and maintenance of the Administration, $7.9 billion is provided for FY 2004, increasing annually to $8 billion in FY 2007. The Aviation Safety Reporting System will receive such sums as may be necessary.
Sec. 106: Insurance–Provides war-risk insurance to aircraft manufacturers and extends the FAA’s authority to provide aviation insurance or reinsurance until March 30, 2008.
Secs. 141 to 159: AIP modifications–Makes a number of changes regarding Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funding; apportionments to private and cargo airports; criteria for discretionary grants; flexibility in noise compatibility; the military airport program; aviation-safety data collection; and various other pilot programs.
Sec. 185: Civil penalty for permanent closure of an airport without providing sufficient notice–Known as the “Meigs clause” this section states that a public agency cannot permanently close an airport listed in the national plan of integrated airport systems without providing the FAA Administrator with written notice at least 30 days before the date of closure. A public agency violating this section shall be liable for a civil penalty of $10,000 for each day that the airport remains closed without having given the required written notice.
Sec. 186: Midway Island Airport–Congress found that the continued operation of Midway Island Airport is critical to the safety of commercial, military and general aviation in the mid-Pacific Ocean region. The maximum funding obligation is $2.5 million for each fiscal year.
Secs. 201 and 202: Management advisory committee and air traffic services subcommittee–These sections make changes to the FAA management advisory committee and reorganize the air traffic services subcommittee.
Sec. 229: Overflight fees–This addresses the overflight-fee dispute between foreign carriers and the FAA. It states that the FAA Administrator shall defer collecting fees until the Administrator reports to Congress responding to the issues raised by the court in Air Transport Association of Canada v. Federal Aviation Administration, and consults with users and other interested parties regarding the consistency of the fees established under such section with the international obligations of the U.S.
Secs. 303 to 309: Environmental process–This deals with aviation capacity enhancement, aviation project streamlining and so on. The Department of Transportation is designated as the lead agency for the environmental review process on major capacity projects and thus has broad powers to streamline these reviews.
Sec. 323: Overflights of national parks–States that the Secretary of Transportation shall issue a final rule, no later than January 2005, to establish standards for quiet technology that are reasonably achievable at Grand Canyon National Park.
Sec. 325: Implementation of noise standards–Requires that the DOT Secretary issue final regulations to implement Stage 4 noise standards consistent with the recent recommendations adopted by ICAO.
Sec. 426: Definition of commuter aircraft–For the purpose of aircraft operations at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport under Part 93 Subpart K, “commuters” means aircraft having a certified maximum seating capacity of 76 or fewer.
Sec. 501: Counterfeit or fraudulently represented parts violations–Requires the FAA to deny a certificate to a person whose certificate was previously revoked for involvement in an activity relating to counterfeit or fraudulent aviation parts.
Sec. 503: Civil penalties–Sets all civil penalties at $25,000 and limits administrative imposition of penalties to $400,000.
Sec. 504: Improvement of curriculum standards for aviation maintenance technicians–Requires the FAA Administrator to ensure that the training standards for A&P technicians are updated and revised and that the Administrator may update and revise training standards by formal rulemaking or by issuing an advisory circular.
Sec. 506: FAA inspector training–States that the comptroller general shall conduct a study of the FAA aviation safety inspectors to include an analysis of the type of training provided; and the amount of travel required of FAA inspectors in receiving training.
Sec. 601: Certificate actions in response to a security threat–Requires the FAA Administrator to issue an order amending, modifying, suspending or revoking any part of a certificate when notified by the Department of Homeland Security that the certificate holder poses or is suspected of posing the risk of air piracy or terrorism or a threat to airline or passenger safety.
Sec. 602: Justification for air defense identification zone–If an ADIZ is established in the Washington, D.C. area, the FAA is required to explain the need for the ADIZ to Congress.
Sec. 609: Arming cargo pilots against terrorism–It is the sense of Congress that crewmembers of cargo aircraft should be armed with a firearm or taser to defend against any terrorist attacks on their aircraft.
Sec. 611: Foreign repair stations–Requires the FAA Administrator to transmit to Congress within 90 days a plan containing an implementation schedule to ensure that foreign repair stations certified under Part 145 are subject to an equivalent level of safety, oversight and quality control as those located in the U.S.
Sec. 612: Flight training–Sets out the requirements for a flight instructor, pilot school or aviation training center to train aliens in aircraft with an mtow of more than 12,500 pounds. Those entities must first notify the Secretary of Homeland Security that the alien has requested such training and furnish detailed information on the training applicant. The bill includes a 30-day waiting period and exempts recurrent training from the notification requirements.
Sec. 814: Flight attendant certification–States that no person may serve as an air-carrier flight attendant (defined as an individual working as a flight attendant in the cabin of an aircraft that has 20 or more seats) unless that person holds a certificate of demonstrated proficiency issued by the FAA.
Sec. 817: Reimbursement for losses incurred by general aviation entities–Authorizes the DOT Secretary to disburse $100 million to the following general aviation entities for the security costs and revenue foregone as a result of imposed federal government restrictions following 9/11: general aviation entities at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA); airports and general aviation entities located within 15 miles of DCA; general aviation entities that were affected by Section 44939 of tile 49, United States Code, or certain FAA notams; and sightseeing operations that were not authorized to resume in enhanced Class B airspace.
Sec. 823: General aviation flights at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport–Requires the Department of Homeland Security Secretary to implement a security plan to permit general aviation aircraft to take off and land at the airport. The FAA Administrator shall allow general aviation aircraft that comply with the requirements of the security plan to take off and land at the airport, except during any period that the President suspends the plan.