U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, this week led fellow Commerce Committee leaders, including Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), the committee’s ranking member, and Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), the chairman and ranking member of the Aviation Operations, Safety, & Security Subcommittee, in introducing S. 1405, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act of 2017, which reauthorizes federal aviation programs through fiscal year 2021.
“Our legislation focuses on enhancing safety, improving air travel for the traveling public, and reforms to help bring the future of aviation closer to reality,” said Thune. “To address eroding rural access to our air transportation system and delays created by congestion around our most populated corridors, our proposal seeks out new solutions benefiting all Americans who use or depend on air transportation.”
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 expanded highlights of the bill.
Click here for a detailed section-by-section summary.
Click here for the bill’s full text, as introduced.