The U.S. House of Representatives today overwhelmingly approved the comprehensive, five-year FAA reauthorization bill, putting the legislation on the path for final passage and enactment in the next few months. The 393-13 vote underscored the bipartisan cooperation achieved after a previous version had been held up for months over a controversial provision to carve the air traffic control organization out of the FAA.
The new version of the bill, the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 (H.R.4), passed close to midday Friday without that provision but with a wide-ranging scope of measures that touch upon everything from certification reforms and a review of supersonic operations limitations to facilitation of unmanned systems into the airspace, a directive for FAA to clarify its policies on flight-sharing, and an Age 70 limit that primarily affects NetJets pilots.
House lawmakers adopted close to 100 amendments to the bill, addressing myriad noise, consumer protection, safety, and other concerns. Some of these include a pilot program that would prioritize certain equipped aircraft at certain airports, facilitate certain non-commercial Stage 2 aircraft operations at less busy airports, and a government-watchdog study on the effectiveness of FAA’s Compliance Philosophy.
The legislation was the first long-term FAA reauthorization bill to pass the House since 2012, noted Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pennsylvania).
“While I would have liked this bill to have included the significant reforms to the management of the nation’s air traffic control system I proposed in earlier legislation, H.R. 4 does include many other important reforms that will help job creators lead in a competitive global marketplace for aviation, improve our airport infrastructure in large, small and rural communities, and improve air travel for millions of Americans,” Shuster said.
Passage instantly drew praise from general aviation groups. “While the bill is not perfect, a long-term reauthorization is critical to advancing our shared priorities. Equally important, this bipartisan bill will modernize, not privatize, air traffic control,“ said NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen. “We are grateful that members of Congress heard their constituents’ concerns about ATC privatization, and reflected those concerns in bringing this legislation to final passage.”
“This bill provides key provisions and language that improves safety, streamlines regulatory burdens, strengthens job creation, encourages competitiveness and innovation, and stimulates exports,” added GAMA President and CEO Pete Bunce.
NATA president Martin Hiller agreed. “The legislation contains many NATA-supported provisions that will improve safety and address the needs of aviation businesses across the country, including efforts to streamline certification and flight standards processes—as well as improve the consistency of FAA regulatory interpretations,” Hiller said. “We are also pleased by the inclusion of studies to assess the current state of, barriers to entry into, and options to increase the future supply of individuals in the aviation workforce.”
Bunce further encouraged the Senate to pass its FAA legislation expeditiously. The Senate must still pass its own version of FAA reauthorization. Senate Commerce Committee chairman John Thune (R-South Dakota) has indicated a desire to finish work on it before the August recess.