U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, issued the following statement after the Commerce Committee approved the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization Act of 2017. As the Working Group on Improving Air Service to Small Communities recently recommended, the bill includes a Thune-led provision, which enhances safety and offers aspiring aviators more training opportunities. This provision is one solution to address the availability of safe and thoroughly trained pilots that are particularly important to air service at smaller airports in rural areas. The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.
“This passenger-friendly aviation reform legislation improves safety and incorporates over 50 amendments offered by both committee Democrats and Republicans,” said Thune. “In particular, this bill will strengthen safety and service for those who depend on smaller airports in rural areas. In preparing for the future of aviation, our committee has acted to continue advancing unmanned aircraft systems and other aviation innovations while offering airline passengers new protections following recent incidents.”
HIGHLIGHTS OF S. 1405:
The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2017 reauthorizes the agency and related programs through the end of fiscal year 2021.
INFRASTRUCTURE INVESTMENT & STUDY – Increases authorized funding for the Airport Improvement Program (AIP), which pays for infrastructure like runways, by $400 million to an annual level of $3.75 billion (well within the projected trust fund surplus), and streamlines the application process for Passenger Facility Charges (PFC). Requires a study and recommendations on upgrading and restoring the nation’s airport infrastructure.
PROTECTING RURAL SERVICE – Maintains access to our nation’s aviation system for millions of Americans in rural areas by reauthorizing the Essential Air Service Program and the Small Community Air Service Development Program through 2021.
GENERAL AVIATION (GA) SAFETY & PROTECTIONS – Offers GA airports more flexibility to facilitate infrastructure investment, applies the same medical certificate requirements to air balloon operators as other licensed pilots, and expands the rights of pilots in FAA enforcement proceedings.
CONTRACT TOWER PROGRAM UPDATES – Protects and enhances safety for airline service in rural communities that rely on or seek entrance into the contract tower program. The contract tower program helps rural airports which might not otherwise have locally based air traffic controllers directing aircraft.
AIRLINE SAFETY IMPROVEMENTS & AVIATION ACCESS – Includes new requirements on the bulk transfer of lithium batteries, improves communicable disease preparedness, and supports contract air traffic control towers, which largely serve rural communities.
CONSUMER PROTECTION & AIR TRAVEL ENHANCEMENTS – Includes new consumer protections for the flying public, updates Department of Transportation (DOT) rules following high-profile airline incidents, and takes steps to help passengers needing assistance during air travel.
DRONE SAFETY & INNOVATION – Addresses safety and privacy issues, criminalizes reckless drone behavior around manned aircraft and runways, authorizes FAA drone registration authority, and boosts enforcement while creating new opportunities for testing and promoting innovative uses.
AIRCRAFT CERTIFICATION REFORMS – Improves international competitiveness of U.S. aerospace manufacturing by improving the FAA’s processes for certifying aircraft designs and modifications, as well as ensuring the benefits of such certification processes for manufacturers competing in global markets.
AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL & NEXTGEN – Acts on recommendations of independent government watchdogs for improving the FAA’s transition to 21st century air traffic control technologies known collectively as “NextGen” and requires the FAA to assess how each NextGen program contributes to a more safe and efficient air traffic control system and its current implementation status.
Click here for information and summaries of the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2017 as originally introduced.