Hoping to build on lessons learned from the Covid-19 pandemic, House aviation subcommittee chairman Rick Larsen (D-Washington) and Rep. Don Beyer (D-Virginia) jointly introduced a bill calling for a national aviation preparedness plan in case of future health emergencies.
The National Aviation Preparedness Plan Act of 2020, H.R.8712, would require the U.S. Department of Transportation to collaborate with other government agencies to develop a national plan that would prepare the aviation industry for future communicable disease outbreaks. In addition to working with the Departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services, among others, the DOT would consult with the U.S. aviation industry, labor unions, and other key aviation stakeholders on the plan. Further, the bill would require a Government Accountability Office (GAO) assessment of the plan.
This bill builds on the Healthy Flights Act of 2020 that Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon) introduced this past summer, laying out requirements for airline passengers, certain airline employees, and other aviation workers to meet during epidemics and pandemics involving the use of masks and other preventative measures.
The Covid-19 pandemic has underscored an “urgent need for a national aviation preparedness plan to ensure the safety of aviation crews, employees, and passengers and restore confidence in air travel,” said Larsen. “This bill will bring federal agencies, frontline aviation workers, and other key stakeholders to the table to develop a clear, comprehensive plan of action for future outbreaks.”
“Watchdogs within the U.S. government and the United Nations have both identified the necessity of a coordinated national strategy to prevent spread of disease by air travel as a crucial element in national and international pandemic response,” added Beyer. “However, to date, the Administration has taken no steps to implement such a plan. Our legislation would require that they do so as soon as possible.”
Larsen noted that a GAO study in 2015 highlighted the need for a national aviation preparedness plan. The watchdog had said such a plan would help the U.S. aviation and public health sectors better coordinate on response efforts.
The legislation has received the backing of the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE). "Better coordination within the federal government and more effective consultation with airports, airlines, and other stakeholders on a consistent planning framework will help make our nation’s aviation system safer for passengers and workers alike,” said AAAE president and CEO Todd Hauptli.