U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, spoke on the Senate floor in support of the bipartisan airport security and passenger-friendly reforms in the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill under consideration in the U.S. Senate.
Remarks (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, which I chair, has a long and proud history of bipartisan cooperation on important matters under its jurisdiction.
“This extends to the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2016, which I introduced along with my colleagues Senators Nelson, Ayotte, and Cantwell.
“The legislation before us includes the most passenger-friendly provisions, the most significant aviation safety reforms, and the most comprehensive aviation security enhancements of any FAA reauthorization in recent memory.
“This bill helps passengers and Americans who use the national airspace for many different transportation needs.
“For example, since the last reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration in 2012, the use of drones has increased dramatically.
“According to its most recent aerospace forecast, the FAA estimates that annual sales of both commercial and hobby unmanned aircraft could be 2.5 million in 2016—a number they estimate may increase to seven million units annually by 2020.
“But the FAA has an outdated legislative framework being used to shape the use of this rapidly growing technology for both hobbyists and commercial operators. This is slowing down innovation and advancements in safety.
“Our bill gives the FAA new authority to enforce safe drone usage. This includes efforts to make sure drone users know and follow basic ‘rules of the sky’ to avoid dangerous situations.
“To support job growth in the aerospace industry, our legislation reforms the process the FAA uses for approving new aircraft designs.
“Our goal is to shorten the time it takes for U.S. aerospace innovations to go from design boards to international markets while maintaining safety standards.
“For the general aviation community, we’re also streamlining red tape and adding safety enhancements for small aircraft by including provisions from the Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2.
“Finally, we increase authorized funding for the Airport Improvement Program, which pays for infrastructure like runways, by $400 million, with existing surplus funds.
“This allows us to help meet pressing construction needs without raising taxes or fees on the traveling public.
“We developed this bill through a robust and open process that allowed every member of the Commerce Committee to help guide the content of this critical aviation legislation.
“Last year, the committee held six hearings on topics that helped inform our legislation.
“At the Committee markup last month, we accepted 57 amendments, 34 of which were sponsored by Democrats and 23 by Republicans.
“Since debate began on the bill last week we have successfully included an additional 19 amendments. Ten of these amendments are sponsored by Democrats and nine by Republicans.
“This bill deserves the Senate’s support.
“I urge members to remember all of the important improvements this legislation puts in place for aviation security, consumer protection efforts, American innovation, safety, and job creation. Let’s send this bill to House and enact a bill before the current extension expires in July.”
Visit www.commerce.senate.gov/faa for information on the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act.