U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today announced that House and Senate leaders have reached a bipartisan agreement on an aviation bill that would reauthorize Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) programs through September 30, 2017, and make several key reforms to security, safety, consumer protection, regulation of unmanned aircraft, and general aviation.
“The bipartisan, bicameral agreement reached today makes important investments in the future and includes numerous consumer protections,” said Thune. “As we face ongoing terrorist threats, this legislation will make significant improvements to airport security and help keep South Dakota families safe while traveling. The sooner we get this bill to the president’s desk, the sooner the FAA can get to work implementing these reforms.”
Thune served as the Senate’s lead negotiator during discussions between the House and Senate.
Highlights of the House-Senate agreement
1. Aviation Security:
- Tightens the access controls and employee vetting standards for aviation workers with access to secure and sterile areas of airports, in order to mitigate the insider threat to aviation security.
- Strengthens security for foreign airports by requiring comprehensive security assessments for all overseas airports serving the United States and considers the level of information sharing and security capabilities of foreign airports.
- Expands the TSA PreCheck program by directing TSA to partner with the private sector to develop enhanced enrollment and vetting methods. By developing and marketing this program, TSA can strengthen security by identifying trusted travelers, while also increasing operational efficiency of checkpoints by providing expedited screening to more passengers.
2. Aviation Safety:
- Streamlines processes for approval and interagency cooperation to deploy unmanned aircraft during emergencies, such as disaster responses and wildfires.
- Requires the marking of certain towers to improve their visibility to low-flying aircraft and help prevent accidents.
- Directs the FAA to establish a comprehensive and strategic framework to identify and address cybersecurity risks to the aviation system.
- Additional Provisions:
- Directs the Department of Transportation to create a working group on air service to small communities, including consideration of how to improve pilot training.
- Reforms and streamlines the third-class medical certification process.
- Requires air carriers to provide a refund of paid baggage fees when items are lost or unreasonably delayed.
- Requires airlines to generally ensure that children 13 years of age or under are seated adjacent to an adult or older child traveling with them.
Click here for a full summary of the agreement.