Both the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) and the Independent Pilots Association (IPA) applauded last week’s announcement of new legislation in the U.S. Senate–S.1692, sponsored by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.)–to include cargo pilots in the new Part 117 flight and duty time regulations that take effect January 4 next year. FedEx pilots are ALPA members, while UPS pilots are represented by the IPA.
United States Senate
After less than a week of massive air traffic delays across the U.S., the Senate and the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly last week to give the FAA the flexibility to move money around its budget from lower-priority items to more necessary areas like funding that returns all of the nation’s air traffic controllers to duty. The legislation is also expected to return funding to the agency’s contract tower program through the end of September. The Senate vote on the legislation was unanimous, while in the House the vote was 361 for and 41 against.
In a deft political maneuver that capitalizes on the perceived need of Congress to deliver election-year public works spending, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) attached an amendment today imposing helicopter flight restrictions in Long Island and Los Angeles to the $52 billion federal highway bill (S.1813). This amendment would mandate offshore routes for helicopters transiting the North and South sections of Long Island and require the FAA to develop more restrictive flight paths for civil helicopters operating over the Los Angeles basin.
House and Senate leaders appear to have reached agreement on a multi-year funding plan for FAA spending and programs. Intransigence across both sides of the political aisle has been instrumental in blocking long-term FAA reauthorization, which led to a partial shutdown of the agency for about two weeks last summer.
It took the furloughing of 4,000 “nonessential” FAA employees and the idling of 70,000 airport construction workers for the Senate to finally vote on the 21st extension of FAA programs and funding early last month.
A group of Democratic senators sent a letter to House Speaker John Boehner last month asking him to appoint conferees to FAA reauthorization talks before the current temporary extension expires on September 16.
A group of Democratic senators sent a letter to House Speaker John Boehner on Tuesday asking him to appoint conferees to FAA reauthorization talks before the current temporary extension expires on September 16.
Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced this afternoon that Congress has reached a bipartisan compromise that will allow temporary funding of the FAA through mid-September and end a two-week partial shutdown of the agency.
Capitol Hill observers expect the House and Senate conference committee on defense appropriations to issue its final report this week. In it could be included some $129 million designated for the VH-71 presidential helicopter program.
Congressional aviation committee and subcommittee leaders from both sides of the political aisle held onto their seats Tuesday, but some long-time friends of general aviation fell by the wayside. With 99 percent of the vote tallied by late afternoon yesterday, Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), ranking Republican on the Senate Transportation Committee, appeared to have retained his seat.
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