WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), a member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today issued the following statement after the Commerce Committee passed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act of 2023, which includes key Thune-led provisions:
“South Dakota and the nation depend on a safe, efficient, and robust national aviation system,” said Thune. “I’m pleased that this bipartisan bill contains significant improvements to address aging airport infrastructure and air traffic controller staffing shortages. The legislation also includes key provisions to improve rural air service programs, enhance pilot training, establish a new regulatory framework for the integration of drones, and improve aircraft accessibility.”
“We really appreciate Senator Thune’s work towards a practical solution that will help improve the pilot supply,” said Patrick Dame, executive director of the Rapid City Regional Airport. “Air Service to small communities like Rapid City have been impacted by an inadequate supply of pilots in the industry and we believe this will go a long ways in helping to solve the issue.”
“The inadequate supply of qualified pilots poses the most serious threat to the future of air service in small communities across the country,” said Dan Letellier, executive director of the Sioux Falls Regional Airport. “I strongly support Senator Thune’s efforts in addressing the pilot shortage and this program is an important step in that process. Thank you for your outstanding leadership for South Dakota and the nation.”
Key provisions included:
- The Increasing Competitiveness for American Drones Act: Bipartisan legislation that would streamline the approval process for beyond visual line of sight drone flights and clears the way for drones to be used for commercial transport of goods across the country – making sure that the U.S. remains competitive globally in a growing industry increasingly dominated by competitors like China.
- The MOBILE Act: Bipartisan legislation that would improve safety and accessibility for individuals who use mobility aids to help ensure their travel experience is as smooth and hassle-free as possible.
- The Aviation Workforce Development Act: Bipartisan legislation that would address aviation workforce shortages by providing new training pathways to help produce highly qualified aviation maintenance workers is a sensible way to overcome challenges and expand the nation’s aviation workforce.
- Establishing an enhanced qualification program (EQP) for prospective pilots: EQP is a structured program meant to integrate several benchmarks for prospective pilots must meet – including receiving their multiengine and type ratings – into one comprehensive curriculum that prepares them for entry into air carrier new hire training. This provision would increase the accessibly and quality of training for prospective pilots, which is crucial at a time when demand for qualified pilots is soaring.
- Raising the Airport Improvement Grant limit for terminal improvements for non-hub and small-hub airports.
- Streamlining the approval of recreational drone operations.
- Allowing communities to receive multiple Small Community Air Service Development Program grants for the same project.