House lawmakers are expecting to turn their attention to a comprehensive FAA reauthorization bill this spring that most likely will include another attempt at air traffic control reform and a host of other measures that range from small airport funding to certification reform to aircraft registration fixes, according to Rep. Sam Graves (R-Missouri).
Graves, the co-chair of the House General Aviation Caucus and member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee, told members of the Aero Club of Washington yesterday that, with the September 30 deadline, “FAA reauthorization is probably coming up in the spring. There is no way we can get to it in February. I don’t know if we can get to it in March.”
Graves conceded that, at this point, it is too early to tell what the bill might look like, but he anticipates that it will include much of what remained from last year’s bill, including air traffic control reform. He was unsure what, if any, changes would be made to the proposal to create a user-funded independent organization to run ATC, but said T&I chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pennsylvania), who was the chief architect of the proposal, “wants to start out with a very open slate.”
Graves anticipates that some of the amendments offered last year to the reform proposal, including those that altered the make-up of an ATC organization governing board, might be included. But he stressed that it is still too early to detail the proposal. He also noted that the Senate might offer something completely different, and those differences would need to be hashed out with any House proposal.
The reauthorization bill, he added, would include a number of other priorities. These include expanding the state block grant program for small airports from the current 10 states to 20, strengthening the airport improvement program, new private hangar regulations, fixes to aircraft regulation issues, airshow regulations and certification reform that might explore possibilities for reforms made for general to commercial aviation.
But while these efforts are ongoing, Graves noted that lawmakers anticipate that they will have a full plate with a “massive” infrastructure package that President-elect Donald Trump is expected to introduce. Shuster, he added, is busy trying to determine elements of that package, but right now it is unclear. The package, however, is expected to include aviation.
The committee also will be looking at automation in highways, which Graves said ties into automation and unmanned vehicles in aviation. “We have to be safe,” he said. “It is a pretty fine line we have to walk. We want legislation that is adaptable…given [how] rapidly the technology is evolving.”